Isaac Asimov : Forward the Foundation

Isaac Asimov's last published novel, and also the final piece in the Foundation puzzle. What a shame that the work is such a mess. I've never been all that impressed by the Good Doctor's attempts to weave his Robot and Foundation stories together: it seemed so pointless, demeaning both series by a convoluted amalgamation. But funnily enough, the faults of Forward the Foundation aren't due to a plot overly concerned with robots (though they do impinge on it in a couple of places), but rather to failings within the basic Foundation structure.

Asimov, under prompting from John Campbell, wrote the original Foundation stories as an analog of the fall of the Roman Empire. So he used rather simplistic political machinations to make the plots work (and the Foundation series is, above all, about the way the politics of Empire behave). Because of this, Asimov has kept that same simplicity of political purpose in relation to Hari Seldon's efforts to establish psychohistory amid the turmoil of Trantor, ruling planet over twenty-eight million worlds. And it doesn't ring true: disbelief is not suspended at all willingly, because of the obvious fallacy of his reasoning. A planet such as Trantor would have a very sophisticated political structure, one that it would be very difficult to undercut, so two thirds of Asimov's plot goes out the window.

Add to this the obvious problems of writing a prequel (where the outcome is already known), and you come up with an annoying book, with no real plot tensions. Sad, but true.

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