At the end of last year, I promised to finish my series of blogs on the Foundation books of Isaac Asimov, so here goes!
Asimov wrote seven Foundation novels altogether, the first three appearing first as short stories in the 1940s and 50s. See https://bookheathen.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/history-of-the-future/
He followed those in the 1980s with two more – https://bookheathen.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/building-a-foundation/
The final volumes, Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation, written shortly before his death in April 1992, are prequels rather than continuations of the series.
‘Sunmaster Fourteen’s expression was one of contempt, and he continued to speak only to Seldon. “Our culture is as old as yours, as complex, as civilized, as humane. I am not armed. – You will be tried and, since you are manifestly guilty, executed according to law, quickly and painlessly.” ‘
Prelude to Foundation tells the story of the young Hari Seldon, thought by many readers and reviewers to be Asimov’s alter ego. Arriving on the planet Trantor, he finds himself almost immediately in trouble. Cleon, emperor of the Galaxy misunderstands (as do many others) a lecture Seldon has given on his embryo theory of Psychohistory, which means the young scientist’s talents are much in demand. Helped by his new friend Hummin, Seldon goes on the run so he can develop his theory without interference. Hummin puts him in the care of a young and remarkably talented young woman, Dors Venabili.
After many adventures and dangerous encounters among the different and alien cultures on Trantor, Seldon and Dors find themselves at the mercy of the Mayor of Wye, who also wants Seldon for what she believes he can deliver – a key to the future!
This is a novel in which the characters are not always who or what they seem to be, as anyone who has read the earlier novels will begin to suspect before long. However, even foreknowledge does not spoil the intriguing plot. And with the added ingredient of Asimov’s clever dialogue, fans of Foundation are unlikely to be disappointed.
The final novel, Forward the Foundation, moves forward in time about a decade. Seldon has long been in a relationship with Dors and is beginning to develop Psychohistory from a vague theory into a practical science. He has adopted a son, Raych, from the sink pits of the Trantor underground.The emperor Cleon’s first minister, Demerzel, whom we already know in various guises throughout the series, disappears and Seldon is appointed in his place.
His responsibility is relatively short-lived. The Galactic Empire is crumbling, Cleon is assassinated and there are wars and rebellions everywhere. But the ageing Seldon still has much to discover about humanity and non-human intelligence. And, by the end of the book, new mental abilities – as seen in the future Second Foundation – are beginning to emerge. Seldon sets in motion the famous Plan that will form the basis of the original novel series, and in which his own granddaughter will have an important role to play.