Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Forward the Foundation (SF Book)

The Loss of Loved Ones. Despair. Hope for the Future. A Plan. Subtle Manipulation.

Years ago when I overenthusiastically described a book to a friend, she sarcastically quipped, “You know it isn’t real; it’s pretend.” So, I have to confess that part of my mind thinks of Forward the Foundation as the biography of Hari Sheldon. The book makes me sentimental. It was written at the end of Isaac Asimov’s life and published after his death. While the novel ends with the triumph of a life’s work, it contains many stories of loss. The novel is another example of good storytelling, with little unexpected twists tucked in to make it interesting.

Briefly, Forward the Foundation fills in the period of Hari Sheldon’s life between Prelude to Foundation and Foundation. Asimov describes the origins of The Sheldon Plan, First Foundation, and Second Foundation. He describes the decay of Trantor over the decades as well as the aging of Sheldon and many of the other major characters. One bright spot is the birth of Sheldon’s granddaughter Wanda, the daughter of Sheldon and Dors’ foster-son, Raych. While the original Foundation Series novels refer to Sheldon in terms of some larger than life character, Asimov shows how other individuals made major contributions that made The Sheldon Plan possible.

Besides being entertaining, Asimov’s Foundation Series made me think. — I started reading the series almost a year ago. — I look at politics differently, losing my last bit of naiveté. The novels made me more aware of cause and effect on a large scale. Forward the Foundation also makes references to making subtle changes in order to bring about a major outcome. This reminds me so much of the recent attempts to stabilize the world economy. All in all, I’m glad I read the whole series.

End Note: Asimov wrote a Robot Series that has some overlap with the Foundation Series. Also, there are  a number of Foundation novels not written by Asimov.

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