I love classic sci-fi, in all it's wondrous unbelievability. I like stories where humans go to venus and find rainforests and go to mars and establish colonies and can breathe for no reason at all. It's way off science fact. but it's awesome. There's a nostalgic feeling to it that makes me feel comfortable and happy.
I've never read anything by Asimov before, so i thought i'd start with his multi-part epic classic. The Foundation series takes place in the far, far distant future when humanity has spread itself across the entire galaxy. They live in a political empire, quadrillions of people on billions of planets unified for millenia under one system, advanced, strong and stable. Enter Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian (aka a mathematician who can use advanced formulas and sociology to predict the future with absolute certainty). Seldon predicts the demise of the Empire and a period of chaos, a new dark age, that will last for 30,000 years, unless he takes direct action to preserve all of human knowledge and make subtle changes to reduce those 30,000 years of disunity to a mere 1,000. I know. A 1,000 year long story. Epic. Seldon is tried for treason and disruption of the peace of the empire, but convinces the leadership of his theories and sets up the Foundation, responsible for the construction of an encyclopedia galactica to preserve all human knowledge on the rim of the galaxy, away from the turmoil about to unfold.
From this introduction, Asimov proceeds to tell his story in almost like an anthology format. We see major figures and major events from each generation and how the members of the Foundation deal with crises that lead them to the forging of a new empire, conquering the darkness, chaos and barbarism that spreads across the galaxy in the wake of the fall of the first empire. There are wonderful themes explored from fate, predestination, individuality, change, and religion. This last is probably the most powerful for me. In the wake of the collapse of civilized society and it's technological wonders, the Foundation finds itself the only group of humans with advanced technology (mainly nuclear power). The other bands of humans whose tech has fallen into disrepair looks upon this advanced technology and science as magic, and the Foundation is quick to seize upon this and make a new religion out of the science, teaching "priests" how to repair and use the technology to further their own power and domination in the galaxy. An interesting concept.
Asimov is a brilliant sociologist and finds interesting ways to resolve immense political and economic crises. The series is well thought out and brilliantly executed. So why four stars? Well, the scope of the story is so large that there are innumerable characters to keep track of and develop. Asimov does a fantastic job at that, but I never really identify with anyone, and just when I start liking someone, they die and we move on to the next generation. This is more of a personal quibble than anything serious. Asimov forsees a great many modern technologies from the early 50s including video conferencing, the internet, and miniaturization of a lot of the gadgets available in the 50s, a trend we see continuing today. Looking forward to the second book.