Sunday, June 17, 2007

Prelude to Foundation

Prelude to Foundation

Isaac Asimov

  —   Book

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Ficiton, Science Fiction

Foundation fans are wild about Harry. Harry Seldon, the creator of psychohistory— a word which, unfortunately, is ineptly drummed into the reader's skull in this Foundation prequel. I liked the book quite well except for its harping on that one word. I would have much preferred it to have remained unnamed until some later point in its history, as this book is the story of how psychohistory went from being a possibility to a plausible exercise, and it grates on me to hear such a term bandied about before its capabilities are fully defined.

Besides, how often do you have to say that word before you realize that that's too darned long to say? "I'm not sure if I'll ever make psychohistory a reality" is fine the first dozen times, but after that you've either got to stop whining or come up with something new to call it. Even initialling it might help.

But anyway, this is an interesting tour of Trantor, hub of the Empire. Asimov fans will meet cultural descendents they will recognize, and perhaps even a few remnants of Asimov's Empire novels. (Some of his earliest works, including those set on a decaying Earth, are considered "Empire" novels.) It's not quite in the style of his original Foundation novels, which followed a fairly predictable course of problem solved by unconventional and fairly intelligent solution which was predicted but not too specifically by Seldon playing the laws of averages. This is little more than a travelogue, with the tension lessened by the fact that we know Seldon's going to figure it out sooner or later. Oh, well, nothing's perfect, and it's obvious that Asimov enjoyed writing these.

Come to think of it, he enjoyed writing everything. On every subject. Did you know the man published things in every Dewey Decimal category?

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