Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov

Official Blurb

The Foundation Trilogy concists of:
1. Foundations
2. Foundation and Empire
3. Second Foundation

The Foundation Trilogy is an epic science fiction series written over a span of forty-four years by Isaac Asimov. It consists of seven volumes that are closely linked to each other, although they can be read separately. The series is highly acclaimed, winning the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966.

The premise of the series is that mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept devised by Asimov and his editor John W. Campbell. Using the law of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone for anything smaller than a planet or an empire. It works on the principle that the behavior of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large (equal to the population of the galaxy). The larger the mass, the more predictable is the future. Using these techniques, Seldon foresees the fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting thirty thousand years before a second great empire arises. To shorten the period of barbarism, he creates two Foundations, small, secluded havens of art, science, and other advanced knowledge, on opposite ends of the galaxy.

The focus of the trilogy is on the Foundation of the planet Terminus. The people living there are working on an all-encompassing Encyclopedia, and are unaware of Seldon's real intentions (for if they were, the variables would become too uncontrolled). The Encyclopedia serves to preserve knowledge of the physical sciences after the collapse. The Foundation's location is chosen so that it acts as the focal point for the next empire in another thousand years (rather than the projected thirty thousand).

My Review

First up, this is not a traditional audio book, it is an audio dramatisation of three books rolled up into an 8 hour serial. This series was produced by the BBC back in 1966 and sounds like it! The sounds effects at times sound like the BBC engineers had a new toy and were going to use it!. The high pitched beeps an whines can occasionally be painful. The recordings are pretty good although I did detect a slight muddiness in the last episode

As to the story, the blurb pretty much gives away the "plot". The story spans hundreds of years, dropping in on particular events and following people caught up in those events, and developing an overarching plot.

I read the Foundation trilogy many years ago and remembered it with affection, so downloaded this as soon as I found it. Personally I really enjoyed this serial but I'm aware that the series does have its pitfalls. I fear that anyone who is not an Asimov fan may find a little disconnect from the story when it leaps from one era to another. Also the sound effects I've already mentioned may put off some listeners.

Reading 3/3
Production 1/3 (The sound effects might surprise the unwary!)
Story 2/3

Total Score 6/9

Download it from the Internet Archive

Listen to the first part