Foundation by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Isaac Asimov was a genius who thought that people who were geniuses were pretentious. He wrote pulp science fiction, invented some laws of robotics, and was a proud humanist.
In many ways Asimov is akin to Philip K. Dick. They both wrote science fiction that found itself entrenched in the pulp side of things. However, these two managed to take the science fiction genre and add some real insight and thought. They both possessed a unique vision of the future, one that could be dark and cruel, or good and kind.
However, the similarities stop there. Dick's works could be dense and surreal, filled with strange occurrences and religious epiphany. Asimov was not so surreal as that. Dick's work relied on the every man, while Asimov was a fan of the academic.
This is not to say that Asimov is not readable or that he is unperceptive to the average person. Rather, he puts it on the people who have access to knowledge to be leaders and to use their knowledge wisely so as to lead us to a better future.
This is shown best in Foundation. Here we have a sprawling space opera that shows the rise and fall, trails and tribulations, and the work required to make a civilization grow. It is deep and the action is not that of the laser blaster being fired or a space war, but more the tension of the politics, the not knowing if they new civilization will survive the failing empire that surrounds it.
To some this may seem a rather boring undertaking and, at times, it can drag. However, the thought that Asimov put into this work and the way in which he shows us how one civilization might raise. It is a story of people and republic, not of heroes and dragons. While this story may take place in outer space it is not so far removed from the world that it fails to represent what challenges we face as humans.
If I have not said it before then I will say it here and now: the most amazing thing reading can do is connect us back to the world in which we live. It is not about escaping the problems of the world, that is not what makes art powerful or moving. It is rather that, be it just something that makes us smile and laugh, or something that makes us think of what is around us, we come out of it and feel more connected to what surrounds us.
Many times it is assumed that a writer writes only to entertain or to allow escape, however, that is not the case. Entertainment is a fine thing. I won't lie to you and say that I don't find Bay's Transformers films entertaining, or find Batman & Robin to be something fun to watch. However, when I am finished with them then I have been given nothing, have taken away nothing. When I am done with Foundation or with Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey I feel as though I been given something, as though I have come away and found myself a better person, a person better connected with the world.
Asimov is a man that understands that, perhaps better than he is given credit for.
View all my reviews or buy the book here: Foundation
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