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Posts Tagged ‘Foundation’

A Review of The Stars, Like Dust

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 16, 2016

The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire, #1)The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve been saying for a long time that I don’t understand why Asimov deserves his gigantic reputation. If one dares make such a comment publicly, they are practically beaten to a pulp by his legions of fans. Don’t get me wrong – he had some good ideas and wrote some decent books that I’ve enjoyed, but he was never a GOOD writer. When he was young, he didn’t even know what basic grammatical things like “transitions” were, he barely knew about writing character development, and while he obviously worked on this his whole career, I think one of his real weaknesses was his complete inability to write realistic dialogue. His dialogue always came off to me as stilted and wooden, as though the protagonist were an overly aggressive frustrated male (usually) Ivy League engineer or scientist who had no social skills and who, frankly, wasn’t very scientifically advanced. Honestly, in Foundation, set over 20,000 years in the future, the main character at some point goes to the capital home planet/city of the Galactic Empire on a spaceship, having made some “jumps” to get there from Foundation, and immediately opens a paper newspaper. Seriously? Asimov couldn’t imagine a laptop, iPad, smartphone, nothing? Most sci fi writers at least have decent imaginations regarding the future.

Suffice all that to say, I was less than impressed with The Stars, Like Dust. Granted, it WAS apparently his second novel, published in 1951, so you have to cut him some slack for that, and I do, and it did have its moments, but on the whole, it’s pulp sci fi and fairly lame at that. It often reads as though it’s a cross between a Buck Rogers and Star Trek episode. It’s that cheesy.

This story is about one Biron Farrill, who at the book’s beginning, is studying at a university on Earth, when thanks to a colleague named Jonti, he is made aware of a radiation bomb that has been planted in his room. This same person then tells him of his father’s execution by the Tyranni, allegedly for taking part in a rebellion. His father held the highest position on Widemos, as the Rancher. Jonti then convinces Biron to travel to this planet, Rhodia, where his father was killed. Sounds like a good idea at the moment. Apparently, Biron is easily convinced. So, this is where he hears rumors about a rebellion against the Tyranni and it becomes his goal to find the rebel planet. With the aid of the daughter of Rhodia’s ruler and his brother. Her name is Artemisia and, naturally, she’s a hottie, because few women in Asimov’s works would be otherwise. And of course, the two rich kids just might go on to save the day, after naturally falling in love, right? Perfect cheesy sci fi love story. With the CHEESIEST ending to any type of novel I have ever read in my entire life! I have read that Asimov was forced by the publisher to put it in there, and if so, then it wasn’t his fault, but whoever was at fault, it’s bad, bad, bad, and it’s a terrible play at stupid 1950s American patriotism and it makes the book even worse. This book has so much melodrama in it, it’s not funny, and to end it like that, my God!

This book is possibly one of Asimov’s worst. None of the characters are likable, except perhaps the tyrant, if that’s feasible. The character development is nonexistent. The dialogue is putrid. The plot twists and turns too much with a few too many betrayals. The science, per usual with Asimov, is suspect. It’s not his worst effort at prose, nor is it anywhere close to his best. At best this is a three star effort, which I’m knocking down to two stars because of the horrible ending. Not seriously recommended.

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A Review of Forward The Foundation

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 5, 2016

Forward the Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #2)Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forward the Foundation is the second prequel to the Foundation Trilogy, yet the seventh and last book written in the series, literally right before Asimov’s death decades after he wrote the original trilogy. And I think it’s genius. Let me provide some perspective. I had heard of the Foundation trilogy for some time, of course, but when I finally read it, I was unimpressed. In fact, I thought the first two books were so poorly written, that the man clearly showed he had no clue of basic grammatical concepts, such as transitions, and writing devices, such as plot and character development. And his dialogue was atrocious! Since then, I’ve read a lot of Asimov, including many of his later works and have concluded that he grew and matured as a writer. He learned how to use transitions. He learned a little bit about plot and character development. He never did learn how to write dialogue that wasn’t wooden, stilted, overly formal, inauthentic, and just plain stupid, but no one’s perfect. When I picked up his fourth book, I loved it. Thought it was brilliant. So I bought the “last one,” the fifth, and hated it because of the nonstop sniping and bitching between two of the characters on every page of the book. I didn’t even finish it.

So it was with some trepidation that I picked up the first prequel a few weeks ago, the sixth book, Prelude to Foundation, where we meet Hari Seldon and his companions and learn about the beginnings of psychohistory and I was struck by how good it was. I loved it! And I thought the ending was spectacular. So I picked this book up, the seventh and last book – but the alleged “second” in the series – that is meant to be read last and just finished reading it a few days ago. I’m only now getting around to writing this review because I’ve had to let thoughts percolate for a few days.

Forward the Foundation covers a hell of a lot of ground and it has to if it wants to tie in with the first Foundation novel. Because of that, the book is divided into five parts, each concerned with a major character – and Hari – and each taking us one decade further in Hari’s life. These parts are of Eto Demerzel, Cleon I, Dors Venabili, Wanda Seldon, and an epilogue.

The first part of the book starts when Hari is turning 40 – 40! – and he and his colleague, Yugo Amaryl, are working to improve psychohistory so that one day it can help foretell future probabilities and create a second Galactic Empire after the fall of the Empire they currently live in. Demerzel is the emperor’s First Minister and a very interesting individual. We meet him in the previous novel and he turns out to be Hari’s champion. Unfortunately, there’s an opposition leader who’s gathering populist support in an effort to unseat him and take his position and Demerzel can see his days are numbered. Even as Demerzel defeats this challenger, saving his position, he gives it up by turning in his notice to the emperor and naming Hari as his successor, much to Hari’s horror. Demerzel then disappears.

The second part of the book has to deal with Hari at age 50 and as acting First Minister to the emperor. An early attempt is made on his life and Dors, his wife and protector, saves his life. She doesn’t have the most pleasant personality and is kind of a little too focused, but she’s extremely devoted. Meanwhile, Hari continues to devote time to the research and pursuit of psychohistory. During this time, it seems the empire is crumbling. Infrastructure is decaying, money is disappearing, fringe planets are fleeing the empire, rebellions are fomenting, and the opposition party from the first part still exists. Hari hears rumors of this and, rather stupidly, convinces his now grown son, Raych, to go to Wye to infiltrate and report back. What he doesn’t expect is for his son to be recognized and to be used as an assassin to kill Hari. At the section’s climactic end, two things happen. Raych raises his gun and points it at Hari, as does as second assassin, and a female undercover agent who Raych took as a lover blows the other assassin away, saving Hari’s life while Raych is overcome. However, shots are heard and elsewhere on the property, the emperor lies dead at the hands of the new chief gardener, who didn’t want his promotion. The empire is about to disintegrate.

In the next chapter, titled Dors, Hari and Yugo and a huge team of scientists and historians have made substantial progress in psychohistory. But Hari is getting old. He’s now 60 and feels it. The government is run by a military junta and things have fallen apart. Hari has landed back at the old university he used to teach at. Raych has married that agent and has had a young daughter, Wanda, now eight, and another small child. Wanda has had a bad dream just in time for a three day birthday party celebration thrown in Hari’s honor. She’s dreamed he’s going to die, be killed. She overhears two men talking about it. No one takes her seriously. Except for Dors. Who starts questioning people. And questions a new, young supergenius mathematician, who has been instrumental in bringing psychohistory along. She confronts him and he levels some accusations against her, and attempts to kill her, weakening her greatly before she somehow kills him first. She reaches Hari, tells him the story and dies in his arms. It’s tragic.

In the Wanda section, Hari is now 70. His friend, Yugo, has died at a young age from overwork. His friend Demerzel is no longer with him. Dors is dead. Psychohistory is in danger of dying out due to lack of funding. The empire is nearly dead. Crime and anarchy are everywhere. Hari is attacked multiple times. On one occasion, Raych saves him. On another, a young researcher named Palver saves him and becomes his bodyguard. Wanda is growing up and is obsessed with psychohistory. And it appears she has some interesting mental powers. These intrigue Hari. See, he has some ideas about something he calls a Foundation. Or rather, two Foundations. To save the galaxy. With Wanda’s help, they encounter more mentalists, including Palver, and these people form the foundation of the people who will become the Second Foundationers. But Raych and his family, minus Wanda, move to another planet, saying goodbye to Hari forever. Now Hari has been abandoned by virtually everyone he has ever cared for in his life at this stage in his life. He feels old and helpless. Yet he must plug on. However, by the end of this section, Wanda and Palver leave Hari too, to go in search of others like them, to form a Foundation for the future of psychohistory and the galaxy. Hari is now truly alone.

The epilogue is quite short, just a couple of pages. Hari is 81. He has recorded his holograms for the First Foundation crises he foresees. Psychohistory has done all it can do and he has too. Everyone has been taken from him. The last thing we see is his seeing his life’s work, Foundation, Dors! And he is found slumped dead over his desk. It’s so fucking sad, I literally cried. I know there’s hope in Wanda and the two Foundations, but this book was so bleak and so sad, and yet so essential to the creation of the Foundation Trilogy, it was impossible not to read and understand and engage. But, damn, was it depressing! But, well done. Well done. Of course, the big secret about Dors comes as no surprise to anyone, but that’s okay. And not only was it sad to see Raych and his family leave, but to find that he is killed in a rebellion on his new planet while his wife and youngest child are lost forever on a starship that is never found. Hari’s tragedies. He dedicates his whole life to psychohistory and his fellow man and loses everything in the process. It’s a fucking tragedy. As is the case with all Asimov books, I’m not sure this merits five stars, due in part to poor dialogue, at a minimum. But I think I can overlook that in this case. It was an excellent book. Five stars. Recommended, but not as the second prequel. Instead, read it as the seventh and last book of the Foundation series to gain the greatest understanding as to what’s going on. Most definitely recommended.

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A Review of Prelude to Foundation

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 23, 2015

Prelude to Foundation (Foundation: Prequel, #1)Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the prequel to the infamous Asimov Foundation series, actually the sixth book written decades after the original trilogy was written. If you’re read any of my reviews of the original trilogy, you’ll remember that I wasn’t impressed. I couldn’t even finish the second one, it was so bad. The writing was horrible, the character development nonexistent, the plot development no better, the dialogue laughable. However, when I read the fourth Foundation book published around 1982, I was much impressed. He had come a long way, although his writing could still use some improvement. At least he had learned how to use transitions. His next book, the final book in the series, irritated me with its characters’ constant nonstop sniping and bitching at each other, so I didn’t finish it and gave it a poor review, although for all I know it could have turned out to be a decent book. I just hated the characters too much to finish it. So it was with some trepidation that I started reading this one.

Prelude to Foundation, the first prequel but actual sixth book in the series to be published, was published in 1988, late in Asimov’s career. His writing, again, was much improved over his earlier work, but it still could have been better. Nonetheless, I was very taken with this book. I thought it had a much better plot than I expected it to, a lot of action, more than expected, a shocking amount of sexuality, which is very un-Asimov-like, a direct tie-in with his robot series, which I enjoyed, and a marvelous finish to a rather tension filled ending. Frankly, I had a hard time putting it down.

The book follows the early career of the young mathematician, Hari Seldon, elder hero of the original Foundation trilogy and creator of the science of psychohistory, which can very nearly foretell the history of society and culture. In this book, he is always on the Galactic Empire’s capital planet/city of Trantor, home to 40 billion people and 800 domed sectors, where he gives a paper at a mathematics conference which garners a lot of attention and from which he is the next day brought to the emperor’s own quarters, and asked to use his psychohistory to help determine the fate of the empire. He tries to explain that it’s theoretical, not practical, that it would take decades, a lifetime, maybe longer, to mathematically prove what he has theoretically proved. He is thrown out in disgrace, later attacked by thugs, defends himself with a new friend named Chetter Hummin, who claims to be a journalist, and who tells him the Empire and the man behind the emperor, Eto Demerzel, is after him. He must flee.

Hummin takes him halfway across the planet, charging Hari with furthering the research and discovery of psychohistory because the empire is crumbling and decaying, and gets him a job as a professor at a university, where he meets a history professor named Dors Vernabili. Hummin tasks Dors with being Hari’s personal protector and she takes it seriously. But one unforeseen accident occurs with Hari coming close to dying, and Hummin arrives and takes them across the planet once again to a backwards sector which is really, really strange. There, hair is forbidden. They’re forced to wear skin caps and even cover their eyebrows, wear robes identifying them by gender, and no woman can talk to a man unspoken to. It’s a very patriarchal society. However, Hari discovers they maintain an ancient history of some sort, dating back over 20,000 years to the original planet of man’s founding. Determined to get the details of this, he continues his quest. At great peril. They discover the first world was probably called Aurora (from the robot series) and featured a lot of humanoid machines called robots, which no one had ever heard of. They begin to suspect the main temple has one somewhere and Hari vows to break in and interview it to learn about mankind’s history to help formulate his psychohistory. Well, they break in, find a broken down metallic robot that doesn’t look humanoid, are caught and are sentenced to death. Just at that moment, Hummin appears and talks their way out of it and takes them to another sector, another poor sector, where he rents them a room with a typical family, leaving them to just survive. Not knowing what to do, they travel around, hear rumors that an old fortune teller in a really bad part of town tells tales of an original planet and vow to go see her. But there are knife fights there, so Dors buys two and they go. They meet a dirty street urchin who takes them to this old woman, who tells them about a place called Earth and about a robot called Day-ee and a man called Bay-ee (both references to the robot series), and they don’t learn much more, so they leave. And are attacked by 10 armed men. Dors takes the leader on with her knives and seriously wounds him while Hari uses martial arts techniques to knock a couple of them around. They escape, but the wife of their rented room is ticked at them and barely lets them back in. The next day, there’s a near riot outside of the house while they go back into the bad area to meet with a local leader. While there, a soldier appears and wants to take them with him. They assume it’s Hummin’s doing, so they go willingly, but it soon appears they are going to the dreaded sector of Wye, where the mayor has been trying to take over the empire for some time now and where they have a major army and where Hummin has been telling them to avoid like crazy. And there they are! They meet, not the ancient mayor, but his younger daughter, who has taken over mayoral duties and who, naturally, wants to use Hari and his psychohistory for her own personal gains. They hope Hummin will come once again to rescue them, but he doesn’t. One morning, however, they are awoken to gunfire and find Wye has been invaded by Imperial troops and that the original mayor has ceded control over to the Emperor. They expect to see Hummin magically show up, but to their surprise, Demerzel appears. And all is explained. And is it a HELL of an ending!!! What a freaking great ending! I actually found it touching, I kid you not. I did not expect that. I expected Imperial involvement, but not that. And Dors. There were hints, but it was never fully explained. We were just left to speculate and perhaps that’s for the best.

One complaint though. The dialogue in this book, as in virtually every Asimov book, is atrocious! Simply horrible. Dors talks about her “gown.” A man they’re staying with unexpectedly just happens to have pairs of “underpants and foot socks” for each of them. The dialogue is overly formal and stilted, wooden and academic. Far too 1940s US and certainly not believable for 20,000 years in the future. Hell, no one talks like that now! It’s ridiculous! Hell, all I can figure is it’s the dialogue of Ivy League PhD ubergeek scientists who don’t know how to converse or interrelate in any way and this is how he has his characters talk, even when they’re talking about sex or something casual like that. It’s silly. I read some passages to my non-sci fi reading wife and she laughed her ass off. Said it was horrible. And it is. It’s an embarrassment. He may have had the reputation, he may have been a good idea man, he may have been able to construct future worlds, but he couldn’t spin a decent conversation to save his life. He had no idea how to do so. It’s rather sad. I would have hated talking to him. I suppose it would have been a fairly silent conversation. Again, in this book, people say things like, “Mistress Vernabili”
and Master Seldon,” in everyday conversation. Crap like that. Isn’t that just a little over the top formal? Oh well. It’s a darn good book. It’s a five star book that I’m knocking down to four stars because the dialogue is so incredibly bad. I desperately want to give it five stars, especially after such an outstanding ending, but I just can’t justify that. The grammatical and literary technical difficulties are too great to ignore. Nonetheless, strongly recommended.

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A Review of Foundation and Earth

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 10, 2015

Foundation and Earth (Foundation, #5)Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If you’ve been reading my reviews over the past few months, you’ve seen my reviews of Asimov’s Foundation books. I finally read the hugely known and loved Foundation trilogy and was not impressed. I thought the first book was poorly written, I thought the second book was so horribly written and the characters so one dimensional and the plot lines so inane, I didn’t even finish it and gave it one star. The third book of the trilogy satisfied me and salvaged Asimov’s reputation for me. Still, I was unimpressed. Then, last month I read the fourth Foundation book written some 30 years later, Foundation’s Edge. I thought it was excellent! A definite five star book. The writing was fluid and mature. It seemed that over the previous 30 years, Asimov must have taken several graduate level creative writing classes and learned a few things, thank God. I mean, he actually used transitions! I enjoyed that fourth book so much, I sought this fifth and final Foundation book out to eagerly finish the series. Unfortunately, Foundation and Earth is again an Asimov disappointment and is so annoying, I’m not even bothering to finish it, again, after reading over 200 pages. What a waste.

In the previous book, the council member of the First Foundation, Golan Trevize, accompanied by historian and companion, Janov Pelorat, go out in a world class Foundation starship in search of both the Second Foundation and Earth. Meanwhile, a Second Foundationer is traveling to intercept them, intent upon modifying Trevize’s mind to follow the Seldon Plan to its finish while the Foundation Mayor is bringing warships with her to find Trevize to attack and destroy the Second Foundationer, and if Trevize is collateral damage, oh well. They converge at a hidden planet called Gaia, which the two space explorers find and discover is inhabited and alive with a hive mind. Everyone and everything, including the animals, plants, and even the rocks, are alive and joined together in memory and feeling, capable of great power, desirous of having Trevize make a decision between the two Foundations and them, their desire to turn the universe and everything in it into Galaxia, so that ultimately all planets and everyone and everything on them all join together for the greater good, greater peace, greater happiness. Trevize chooses Gaia and that’s how the fourth book ends.

In this book, we’re back on Gaia, but Trevize is grumpy as hell. He’s not sure he made the right decision and since it’s the biggest decision in the history of the universe, he has to know. And, for some unknown reason, the only possible way he can know is to find and go to the mythical first world of Earth, wherever that is, if indeed it exists at all. There he will find his answer. Why? We’re never told.

Naturally, Pelorat, who wanted to find Earth in the first place, decides to accompany him and Pelorat’s new Gaian girlfriend, Bliss, who is Gaia – literally – goes too, to help “protect” them. Which creates all sorts of problems for she and Trevize. See, Trevize is seriously pissed about the hive mind and the fact that Bliss speaks for and indeed is all of Gaia. He feels that can’t be as good as having one’s individuality. Etc. Bliss feels otherwise, and attempts to explain the benefits of being connected to all beings and things on the planet to him, which he just shrugs off. And as they start traveling to planets, they start bickering. And arguing. And fighting. And it.doesn’t.ever.stop. Oh my God, all they fucking DO is fight and bicker, page after page. It’s fucking relentless and they beat a dead horse over and over, repeating the same tired crap, such as “Bliss did you control my/his mind?” and “I am Bliss but I am also I/we/Gaia.” There’s only so much of that you can see repeated on virtually every other page if not more often before you want to hurl the book at the wall and stomp all over on it. It’s damned infuriating. Why Asimov feels he has to shove this crappy dialogue down the readers’ throats relentlessly and repeatedly is beyond me, but it’s stupid. Really stupid. And, I think, the sign of a poor writer, trying to extend word count so as to make some more money by making his word count quota. I would think he would be better than that.

Trevize, who was a pretty decent and shrewd explorer in Edge is simply really unappealing in this book. Indeed, he’s downright unlikable. Okay, he’s a major dick. He is rude to Pelorat, brutish and mean to Bliss, and apparently cruel to a child called Follum later in the novel. Pelorat is insipid and boring. Bliss says the same things over and over. I guess she’s limited verbally by being a damn planet. The characters, like many of Asimov’s, have no depth and simply argue with each other throughout this overly long book. There’s virtually no action and little of interest. Just bickering and fighting. Oh joy. Oh creativity. Oh brilliance. Oh yeah, for some strange reason, unlike the previous Foundation books, there’s a lot of sex in this book. A lot. I generally don’t mind that sort of stuff, but it makes it stand out from the rest and not necessarily in a good way.

One thing I hadn’t stopped to realize with the fourth book that I liked so much is that the book deviated from the much celebrated Seldon Plan, although it plays a key role in the book. In this book, it’s hardly mentioned. It’s almost as though the Foundation never existed. Is this even a Foundation novel?

This book, like its predecessor, is better written than the original trilogy, in terms of writing style and writing devices and grammar. But the story and characters suck. I really found myself hating each of them and dreading turning the next page as I read through it. Thus, as I said, after about 200 pages, I had had enough. I can only take so much fictional fighting. There’s too much fighting in the world going on in real life. Why use your down time to read it? I was going to give this book two stars because it’s both an Asimov and Foundation book, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I really don’t think it deserves two stars. I given better books two stars. This is a one star book. If you’re reading the Foundation series, avoid this one. You don’t need to read it and it doesn’t really add anything to the story. Definitely not recommended.

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A Review of Foundation’s Edge

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 23, 2015

Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4)Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spectacular! Finally, a Foundation book worthy of its reputation and legacy. I found the Foundation Trilogy to be quite mediocre, at best, and even gave the second one just one star and couldn’t even finish it, it was so bad. The writing was horrible in the first three books, the characters undeveloped, the plotlines flat, the technology rather pathetic with far too much reliance on nuclear energy 20,000 years in the future. The books sucked. But this one, written 30 years later, shows a maturity in the writing style, a certain growth, and while no one can ever confuse Asimov’s ability to create character development with “real” writers, he certainly improves it in this book. So, too, the plot is decidedly better, more intricate, more intriguing, the book may even be viewed as a page turner! What a pleasant surprise.

Foundation’s Edge focuses on Foundation Councilman Golan Trevize, whose ideas about the existence of the Second Foundation get him in a great deal of trouble. Likewise, a young Speaker of the Second Foundation, also aware that something is completely wrong with the Seldon Plan, is viewed as a troublemaker. Trevize is arrested and exiled for his challenge to the Mayor of the Foundation. He is given a secret mission – to find the Second Foundation and determine what it is up to and then to report back. The Second Foundation’s Speaker’s goal is to find who is manipulating the Seldon Plan outside the Second Foundation, as he is now convinced is happening. These two mysteries and men are destined to find one another and then, what happens, happens.

Trevize takes historian Jan Pelorat, an unknown academic who believes, bizarrely, that humans, now spread over a zillion planets, actually originated on a single planet: Earth. Pelorat unwittingly joins Trevize as a cover for his search for the Second Foundation. Pelorat is obsessed with Earth. Why did people leave Earth 20,000 years ago? For instance, why are there no records of its history or location anywhere, just rumors? Was Earth destroyed by radioactivity? Did a war between robots and humanity force humans to flee the planet to establish new worlds?

Speaker Gendibal takes as his companion a Hamish woman named Novi, whom he will use as a mental alarm in the event anyone or anything attempts to take his mind over. Novi ends up playing a significant role in this book.

Foundation Mayor Branno leads a fleet of five warships to the mysterious planet Trevize and Pelorat locate, Gaia, a planet found on no maps or in no databases anywhere. Trevize, Gendibal, and Branno all appear at Gaia simultaneously and discover something unbelievable. And something unbelievable happens to end the novel.

There is another book Asimov apparently wrote after this book and this one was so good that I’ll probably buy that one and read it too. I hope it’ll be nearly as decent as this was. I also know there are now preludes to the original trilogy, but as I hated the trilogy so much, I doubt I’m interested in reading any preludes. This book is superior, a most excellent book, and while it helps to have read the trilogy, I’m not certain it’s necessary – it can probably be read as a stand alone book. Even though it’s over 425 pages, it doesn’t feel long and is a quick read. Definitely worth the investment. Strongly recommended.

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A Review of Second Foundation

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 6, 2015

Second Foundation (Foundation, #3)Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, what do you know? Asimov CAN actually write a decent book! I’m literally shocked! After reading the absolute disasters that the first two Foundation books were in terms of both plot and writing (the writing was atrocious, along the lines of a young high schooler with a couple of years of English classes under his belt at best), I was convinced that Asimov’s incredible reputation was completely fraudulent and I was curious how he or his publishers had pulled it off. This book helped repair that image to a certain degree in my eyes. In this book, it’s apparent that Asimov might have actually taken a college English class or two, maybe even a writing class, in between writing the previous Foundation books and this one, because he has now learned the meaning of the word “transitions,” something he had previously never heard of. It’s still not his strong point and I suspect it never will be, but at least he can now string a few sentences and paragraphs together in English without sounding like a total idiot. He’s also learned a little bit more about character development, not enough, but much more than he ever displayed in the previous Foundation books. That’s a bit of a relief. Furthermore, after almost completely ignoring women as characters in the previous books, particularly the first one, a couple play prominent roles in this book, particularly one young teenage girl who plays a very strong role in the second half of this novel. Refreshing. Maybe he’s not a total chauvinist pig after all. I suspect he is, but maybe he’s trying to overcome that to some small degree.

Second Foundation is the third book in the original Foundation trilogy, given the one time Hugo award for the best sci fi/fantasy trilogy series of all time, beating out Lord of the Rings, among others. That continues to astound me, as I can find no rational explanation for that. Nonetheless, the series is held in high regard by many. The first book centered around one Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian in the far distant Galactic Empire which is crumbling and he knows it, so he sets about mathematically sort of telling the future and developing a plan to put together a second Empire within 1,000 years and to do so, he establishes two Foundation worlds on opposite ends of the galaxy to prepare for this. The first Foundation is comprised of physical scientists who deal mostly with nuclear energy and who go on to dominate the worlds around them, creating their own small empire. They are destroyed by a mutant called the “Mule” in the second novel. The second Foundation is made up of psychologists who have developed mind control techniques similar to the Mule’s own abilities and who are determined to remain hidden and follow the Seldon Plan no matter what.

This book is divided into two halves. In the first half, five years after the Mule has conquered the first Foundation, he is ready to seek out and find and conquer the second Foundation and for that he sends his general Hans Pritcher with an accomplice in search of it. And it seems they find it. And the Mule shows up hot on their tail, seeking to confront the First Speaker of the Second Foundation, only to find more than he bargains for. It’s a pretty cool scene. In the second half of the book, 50 years have gone by and the First Foundation has now become convinced that the Second Foundation is their real enemy, for some bizarre reason, so they’re paranoid and groups of them are searching for the location of the Second Foundation. Meanwhile, the Mule’s replacement warlord on a nearby planet decides he wants to conquer the first Foundation and prepares to attack. A 14 year old Foundation girl, Arcadia Darell, stows away on a ship bound for his planet with a family friend being sent there presumably to study the Mule for academic purposes, but actually to spy for Second Foundation evidence. Arkady becomes friendly with the leader’s mistress, who helps her escape when war is imminent, and she leaves for Trantor, where she is “saved” by a farmer and his wife, who take her in and take care of her, particularly after they find out about the war between Kalgan and Foundation. Her father, and some friends, are leading the war effort, but they’ve also been leading in the secret fight against the Second Foundation, so when Arkady finds out the location of the Second Foundation, somehow, somewhat miraculously, she convinces her farmer protector to fly to Foundation and take food to aid the Foundation people and to tell her father five words that he would be able to interpret and would enable him to know where the Second Foundation is located. The things that follow are enough to make anyone’s head spin, because there are so many twists and turns and stops and starts and crazy things happen and you get to what you think is a happy conclusion, only to find there’s one more chapter, and with it, perhaps an even better conclusion. Great ending to a meh series. This is probably a five star book, but I can’t bring myself to give it five stars because I’m still so ticked off at how utterly bad and horrible the preceding book was, a one star book, and at how fairly bad the first book was, and at how overrated this whole series is. I’m also astonished at what I think is Asimov’s lack of sci fi foresight. Even writing as far back as he did, he still should have been able to predict some technology advances better than he did. Philip K. Dick was writing at the same time and did a much better job, on the whole, than Asimov did. For instance, this is what, 30,000, 50,000 years in the future, and people are still reading hard copy newspapers when they get out of their space ships? Seriously? In his books, microfilm is about as high tech as digital storage gets. Nuclear energy and power 50,000 years in the future is the pinnacle of scientific advancement and civilization. Obviously, it never occurred to Asimov that maybe, just maybe, humanity might have advanced beyond the nuclear era sometime over the next 50,000 years. It’s utterly mind boggling how devoid of sci fi ideas he was. And he was a scientist. That’s the thing that really gets me. I’ve got to say that in my opinion, he’s got to be the most overrated writer in the history of humanity, with 500 books to his credit, yet displaying very little imagination on the whole, total male chauvinism throughout his career, complete lack of sci fi technological foresight, his total obsession with Multivac in his short stories, the one and only world wide computer that is hundreds of miles big. He can’t even comprehend desktop computers. He takes a stab at palmtops, but can’t even come up with laptops or cell phones or email or the Internet or anything cooler than that that might turn up 100, 1,000, 10,000 years from now. No imagination. Where did he get his reputation from? He was pretty original with his robots, but after his first robot story or two, it got pretty repetitive and he spent half of his future stories rehashing the Laws and everything they implied. Boring. This book was good and I enjoyed it and for that I was glad. I’d like to give it a higher score, but in my opinion, the Foundation series is at best a three star trilogy, so at best, this is a four star book. Whatever the case, this book, at least, is recommended, unlike the others.

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A Review of Foundation and Empire

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 26, 2015

Foundation and Empire (Foundation, #2)Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’m sorry if I sound like a sci fi traitor, but this book sucks. And this series sucks. I have no idea how it won a one time Hugo for best sci fi/fantasy trilogy of all time, beating Lord of the Rings, but the idiots who gave it to Asimov were complete morons. First of all, this book is unbelievably stupid. It’s divided into two parts. In the first, a young general of the fading Galactic Empire comes to invade Foundation. With 10 warships, only eight of which work. And it turns into a 10 year war. Somehow. I have no idea how Asimov figures that. In David Weber’s space battles, hundreds of ships are destroyed in seconds in his books and that’s how I picture things to be. You don’t go “invade” a world with eight ships, nor would it take 10 years. That’s just stupid. And when Foundation defeats him, they somehow have defeated the Galactic Empire too, even though it encompasses thousands of planets and Foundation has invaded none of them, so that makes literally no sense. The second half of the book is about a mutant called “the Mule,” which is an utterly stupid name, who is anti-Foundation and who has arisen from nowhere to take over a planet without firing a shot, whom no one has really seen, who there are only rumors about, who all of a sudden is taking over all sorts of planets, and who attacks Foundation for some reason. It’s mind numbingly stupid. The second thing that makes giving this book part of the best trilogy of all time stupid is, like the other Foundation books, the writing is utterly atrocious. Asimov can’t write. It’s like he got three degrees in science and decided he could write novels, so he did, but he actually can’t. Compare that to me. I have three degrees in English and writing. What if I decided I wanted to go dabble in science? I would have no validity to do so, but isn’t that the same thing Asimov is doing? I like his robot books, to a certain degree, but frankly, the more I read of him, the more horrified I am at his total lack of writing skills. For instance, the man has never heard of transitions. Never. One minute a character is talking to someone, telling him he’ll go to another planet to talk to someone else, and the next sentence he’s talking to that other person, but you don’t know that because there’s been no transition letting you know that. There’s been no goodbyes said, no space travel, no landings, no travels on a new planet, no setting up meetings with a new person, nothing. Just the next sentence, the character is talking to the new person and it just magically happens. Terrible writing. Then try this on. This is a one sentence paragraph opening chapter 16. It’s unreal.

“When the twenty-seven independent Trading worlds, united only by their distrust of the mother planet of the Foundation, concert an assembly among themselves, and each is big with a pride grown of its smallness, hardened by its own insularity, and embittered by eternal danger — there are preliminary negotiations to be overcome of a pettiness sufficiently staggering to heartsicken the most persevering.”

What the HELL is that about? What does that even mean? It’s just gibberish! It’s trash! And that’s how Asimov writes. He writes like crap. Who taught him how to write? Did he ever take any writing classes, let alone creative writing classes, in college? And his dialogues are typically wooden and unbelievable as well. Just atrocious. Bad, bad, bad. He mixes 1950s casual colloquialisms with formalities and pseudo-technical gibberish to make it even worse. It hasn’t aged well, that’s for sure.

When I read the first Foundation novel a little while ago, I was disappointed, but I thought it was somewhat original, so even though I thought it was a three star book, I gave it a four star review. This one isn’t sliding by. I didn’t even finish it, I was so disgusted. And I have the next one, the next two actually. Somehow I doubt I’ll read them now. I can only think they’ll be massive disappointments to me. For the life of me, I have no idea how many people can give this book a five star rating. Clearly they have few standards as far as quality of writing goes. Call me a snob, but I think there are many, many more sci fi writers out there with infinitely better writing skills — and ideas — than Asimov. I just started a huge book of his early stories which has a very high rating on Goodreads. I hope I’ll like it and I actually think I might. But this book? Not recommended at all.

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