Friday, 11 November 2011

Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

Asimov's foundation trilogy is universally hailed as a classic of science fiction so it is easy to forget that the original stories were written in the 1940's approximately equidistant between the times of Jules Verne and the present day.

The basic setting is a far future period in the wake of the collapse of a pan galactic empire. A farseeing psychologist predicts that humanity will descend into a 30 millennium dark age unless something is done so he establishes a foundation(or two) in a far flung star system in order to ensure that civilisation is restored in just one millennium.

Unsurprisingly the science in this trilogy seems amusingly quaint to a modern reader with space faring societies still relying on coal and oil while the mysterious "atomic power" represents the elusive pinnacle of scientific achievement. The pinnacle of physical science that is because psychology has transformed from the crude understandings we know today into a precise quantitative science capable of precisely predicting the behaviour of large groups of humans thousands of years into the future.

Regardless of the comical science the good news is that the stories are well written and still held my attention to the end. I found myself eagerly following the exploits of Asimov's characters although I will admit that I found the smugness of the psychologists annoying by the end of the sequence.

This trilogy only covers half of the Foundation's millennium and Asimov didn't get to write a follow up until the 1980s. It will be interesting to see how he integrated the discoveries of the intervening 30 years.

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