Friday, April 17, 2009
Book 23: Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Title: Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
How it was obtained: Christmas gift from Ben and Jen a few years back.
Time spent on the "to read" shelf: 3 years.
Days spent reading it: 5 days.
Why I read it: I started reading the Foundation novels awhile back, and at some point I asked for them for Christmas. I received this great book, but was unable to read it due to my somewhat strange habit of almost always reading books in the order the author wrote them. Although it is a prequel, Prelude to Foundation is one of the last Foundation novels Asimov wrote. SO I had to get through 5 others before I could even start this one.
Brief review: Prelude to Foundation is chronologically the first book in the Foundation series. The story centers on the character of Hari Seldon, who is by far one of the better characters Asimov has created. He is memorable, likeable, and unique.
Although Prelude to Foundation is one book, its really a series of short stories as Seldon travels across Trantor fleeing from Imperial power that wants to control Seldon so it can control the future. As I stated in my previous posts, Asimov does great short stories (Foundation, the first book the author wrote in the series, was actually a group of four short stories that were published in a Sci-Fi magazine). He has interesting ideas and fun places to visit. However, in my opinion, Asimov struggles with longer plots. He has trouble bringing a longer book to a satisfying conclusion. So in this book the individual chapters are great, but the overarching plot is shoddy.
In Prelude, we see Seldon in a number of different environments that he explores, then leaves. However, it seems like nothing is really gained at any one location. But the stories in those locations are interesting. In one place all the people have their heads completely free of hair, including their eyebrows. Asimov uses stories like these to discuss culture, anthropology, taboos, and how humans rise or fall to these social forces. Some of the time its interesting. Other times I was bored or tired of being told for the hundredth time how humanity needs to grow out of its prejudices (whether they be gender, social, economic, race, etc. related).
The overarching story was a little weak. Once again Asimov oddly ties in his foundation series to his Robots series. I found the connection forced and strange yet again (as I discussed here about Foundation and Earth). But this book was much more readable and more enjoyable than Foundation's Edge or Foundation and Earth. I would recommend it as a worthy successor to the Foundation series, even if its not quite as good as some of the earlier works.
Favorite quote: "Thalus, Emmer--A sargeant in the armed security forces of the Wye sector of Ancient Trantor. Aside from these totally unremarkable vital statistics, nothing is known of the man except that on one occasion he held the fate of the Galaxy in his fist."
Stars: 4.5 out of 5.
Final Word: Foundational.