There are seven novels in the Foundation Series: Prelude to Foundation, Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, Foundation’s Edge, Foundation and Earth and Forward the Foundation. Foundation Trilogy is comprised of Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. I read all the books in the trilogy in order, one after the other. As some of you may be aware, science fiction is not a genre I enjoy and I resist many books of that nature, but I’m trying to be more rounded.
During the summer of 2010, I picked up a copy of Great Reads from The Reading Man Series 2010 from the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library because I was curious and wanted to see which books men like to read. I flipped through the booklet and focused on the books that were written a long time ago and read the summary of the books that these men provided. I chose the Foundation Trilogy novels because they were published in the 1950s, and since I do not like science fiction, I was unlikely to ever read them.
Here is the summary, which Darren MacDonald provided for The Foundation Trilogy in Great Reads:
“A sweeping fiction epic about the fall of the Galactic Empire spanning 25 million worlds. The Foundation, inclined towards individual action and liberty, is a colony dedicated to science and creating a new empire. The Second Foundation, unknown to the first, works to guide the future leaving them the masters of the universe. The trilogy is about ideas in action, particularly trade-offs between individual liberty and central planning, fate and free will. It’s also an entertaining space opera.”
From that description, would you want to read Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov? I like books that provoke thought, and that you can learn things from, and Foundation Trilogy certainly did that.
At first I struggled with the first novel because it was foreign to me, and several decades elapsed between each section, so new characters were appearing, but I relaxed and opened myself to the possibilities. The main character is Hari Seldon even though he dies very early in the book. Seldon is a psychologist and is mathematically brilliant. He established and legitimized the field of “psychohistory” which is the study of humanity, and calculated the historical predictions of the future and outlined them in what was later known as The Seldon Plan. He predicted the mass action of human groups, the eventual demise of the Galactic Empire and the rebirth of a new Galactic Empire.
The Commission of Public Safety banished Seldon and the scientists who worked for him at the Foundation to another planet, Terminus. The Commission thought they were punishing Seldon but he out-manoeuvred them because Terminus was where he wanted to land. In the historical predictions spanning centuries, Hari Seldon predicted a series of crises that can be overcome. But he didn’t say what the crises were, so a thought leader (Salvor Hardin, Lathan Devers and so on), within the Foundation had to recognize the crisis, work collaboratively and strategically to avert the crisis without using pure force. The thought leaders of the Foundation always looked at the weak points of their enemies and exploited them.
The Foundation Trilogy is brilliant because it demonstrates strategy in action. It highlights the dangers of not thinking for yourself, accepting the status quo, and not having a Plan B. You see the normalcy bias unfold, where people underestimate the possibility, severity and impact of an impending disaster so they fail to adequately prepare. When Seldon did the calculations for his historical predictions, he assumed that humanity would remain the same. The Foundation was defeated during one crisis because Seldon did not allow for anomalies like the “Mule” a mutant who could control people’s emotion and have them do his bidding.
After I was midway through the first book, I really got into the story and I devoured the three books in record time. I suspect that if you are a science fiction buff, you will get into the first book from the get-go.
- Think for yourself, or others will do it for you.
- Things are seldom what they seem so dig beneath the surface.
- Don’t accept the way things are simply because it’s the status quo.
- What are your assumptions based on? Test them!
- Nothing remains the same.
- When creating scenarios in decision-making, have you taken into account the normalcy bias?
While reading the books, I was reminded that we can find ideas for innovation by looking at the past. For instance, in Second Foundation (1953), Arcadia Darrell is working on her school assignment, “The Future of Seldon’s Plan,” and she spoke her essay into her “transcriber” which typed her essay for her. The “transcriber” is what we call speech recognition software, which still has a way to go for us. The “transcriber” “Will spell and punctuate correctly according to the sense of the sentence…it encourages the user to employ careful enunciation and breathing in order to make sure of correct spelling, to say nothing of demanding a proper and elegant delivery for correct punctuation.” That would be grand when we get to that stage with the technologies we have today.
The books also talk about book films which are electronic books. There is an emphasis on miniaturization and consuming less electricity. I recommend the Foundation Trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation because there are many lessons dispersed throughout the book, and there might be an idea that you can implement, and the story is indeed an epic.
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Most of the book links are affiliate links.
- Prelude to Foundation
- Foundation and Empire
- Second Foundation
- Foundation’s Edge
- Foundation and Earth
- Forward the Foundation
- 2011 Books for Mentoring (theinvisiblementor.com)
- Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation Trilogy” – BBC Audio Dramatization (bookofjoe.com)
- Dante Harper Adapting Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ For Roland Emmerich (slashfilm.com)