Book Review: Isaac Asimov, Foundation Series

So its revision season. You haven’t got time to read for pleasure and even if you did, do you want to get into a new book? And which one?! This was my line of reasoning, but then the revision comes and you realise you should take a break, and how better than to just sit down and throw yourself into some fictional world. Preferably one in which exams and essays don’t exist. Asimov’s Foundation series fills the niche. Primarily three books, the series extends to whatever point you can read to. All of Asimov’s books are linked in one way or another, and yet each is a stand-alone novel – perfect if you might have to abandon reading to some essay deadline. So the setting – the Milky Way galaxy, a mere 20,000 years in the future. Earth is just a legend and instead humanity has melded all of the inhabitable worlds into one great Galactic Empire – Foundation begins when that Empire begins crumbling. The story follows a world. Not a character, just a world. That world is the Foundation itself, as it rises under various personalities to fulfil its own destiny of Galactic Domination. Each chapter is recounted in the narrative of a new protagonist, sometimes with centuries elapsed between chapters. Each has its own challenges, its own plot, and its own twists and turns, which means if you don’t like a character, you just read onto the next chapter. You soon learn to realise though that it’s the themes which are important, it’s the grand narrative that hooks you, the plight of a galaxy rather than that of an individual. It’s a place filed with atomic physics, huge armadas of space ships, and ludicrous technology that only a writer in the 1940s could have predicted. But that’s all part of the charm. There’s political intrigue that would put House of Cards to shame, and suspense scenes that would have Stephen King on the edge of his seat. But underlying it all is easy-to-follow language, and a plot complex enough to fool, but not annoy. Asimov’s Foundation is in short the perfect revision read. Just try not to get too hooked – the Orbital and I accept no responsibility for your missing of any deadlines.