Foundation (Isaac Asimov)
27 October 2004
Ross Hetherington (9 February 2020 13:52)
I loved this when I read it. Criticising science fiction from this long ago as "dated" doesn't make sense alot of the time. What else can it be expected to be? But the influence of these books was immense - relevance to real world debates at the time (at the start of the cold war). Well paced - I remember always being interested to find out how the threat to the colony was going to be predicted (or not?) each time.
Marc Reynolds (30 November 2004 18:43)
Although I agree there are elements of predictability about very large numbers, the books give a totally unrealistic level of predictability about very specific time frames on one small planet with a tiny population - not the billions of humanity in the galaxy.
Even if Graham is right about psycho-history, I still don't care enough about the foundation to be interested.
gregor moir (16 November 2004 12:22)
So we're having a debate about quantum physics on a sci-fi/fantasy bookgroup website. Can we a least try not to reinforce certain stereotypes regarding sci-fi readers?
Graham MacDonald (12 November 2004 14:37)
To counter Marc's point about Chaos theory, the point of Psycho-history is that it only works on a very large group of people (millions/billions). Chaos theory and quantum theory suggest that we cannot predict the actions of a single element. So for example you could put an atom of oxygen in a room and have no idea what it will do. However, if you put a trillion oxygen atoms in a room they will excert a uniform, constant and calculable pressure on the outside walls of the room (caused by lots of these atoms hitting said wall).
In a chaotic universe we can actually predict exactly at certain levels what some things will do. If I throw a ball at a wall there's a chance that the atoms of the ball and the wall will be so positioned that it will go straight through the wall and it's also not impossible that the keyboard I'm typing this on will spontaneously collapse to form a black hole but lets face it, neither of these things are going to happen.
Although I agree that psycho-history is a bit of a far fetched idea it's no more far fetched than a lot of the ideas we find (nay expect to find) in the very best science fiction.
Marc Reynolds (11 November 2004 19:02)
Read it a while ago and never really thought much of it - And contrary to Graham I feel as though it has dated badly. I find the whole concept of psycho-history lets down the book (and series) like a rotten foundation (sic!). At the time it was a novel idea, but advances in chaos theory have totally undermined any possibility of truth. Although it is a novel and one should suspend disbelief, I find it very hard to do with hard SF.
The nature of the book as a set of linked short stories means asimov never really develops any characters to care about, and I really don't care whether the Foundation succeeds or not.
gregor moir (8 November 2004 17:47)
As a stand alone book it's a little limited but taken into conjunction with the rest of the trilogy it becomes sci-fi par excellance.
The concept of psychohistory/psychomathematics tied nicely into my own situation at the moment, giving it a nice touch of topicallity.
The author also had an ego to compare with the psychologists of the day. Comparing himself to Hari Seldon, mapping out humanity's future (wank!).
Coincidentally one of the only books my mum has ever bought me that I actually liked.
Graham MacDonald (28 October 2004 13:22)
I'm slightly biased in my opinion of this book as it was probably the first proper sci-fi I ever read (as I lay in my sick bed aged 12). I loved it then and I love it now.
I will admit that as a stand alone book this book doesn't work as well as it does as part of the whole series but that's a minor point in my opinion. It still feels very contemporary despite being over 50 years old now and I'd be hard pressed to name a better science fiction series than the one that takes it's name from this book.