Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series, one of the best-known series in the science fiction genre. We will examine Prelude to Foundation, which comes out later but is the subject of the beginning of the series.
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For some reason, most literary critics do not find these works as literary as classical works when it comes to science fiction or fantastic works. Fantasy and sci-fi narratives have been equated with popular novels that have entertained a marginal group of teenagers for years, although the perspective has begun to change in recent years.
It is possible to understand the anxiety behind this. The act of reading is an act that is directly related to the material you are reading. No matter how entertaining the gripping novels, which are not rooted in the reality of life, are works that do not contribute to the individual beyond killing time, do not activate the responsibility of the reader’s thinking, and do not take the world one step further.
Of course, it doesn’t make much sense to attribute the responsibility of changing the world to novels, but for God’s sake, what else do we have that can make the world better apart from art and science? Of course, we should also read popular and cheap novels to distract ourselves, but in particular, the artistic work should be in a structure that is oppositional, gives people the responsibility of thinking and makes them sensitive.
However, it is not correct to look at science fiction and fantasy as purely empty dreams, away from reality. Each work must be handled separately. The problem with looking at these genres today is to collectively characterize them all as useless and fanciful works. In both science fiction and fantasy genres, there are quality works that take their roots from the reality of the world, tell people to people, and have a concrete and literary language.
In this review, we will consider one such series and begin with Prelude to Foundation, the first book in the Foundation series.
Who is Isaac Asimov?
Isaac Asimov was born in Russia in 1920 to a Russian Jewish family. At the age of 2, his family moved to America and started to run a candy store here. Since this shop also sells magazines and newspapers, Asimov both loved to read and had no trouble finding material to read in his childhood.
Saying that his biggest dream at that age was to open a kiosk selling newspapers, magazines and books in the following years, Asimov, after studying in different schools in New York from the age of five, enrolled in the Department of Zoology at Columbia University, but at the end of his first semester he changed his field to chemistry because he could not accept the slaughter of stray cats. He graduated from this field in 1939.
Asimov, who completed his master’s and doctorate studies at the same university and received the title of philosopher doctor, married Gertrude Blugerman during this time and learned French and German. He worked as a civilian chemist in the army for 9 months.
After his doctorate, with the support of Dr. Robert Elderfield, whom he met during his research, he started to work in a university in the field of biochemistry, and in the following years he reached the title of professor in biochemistry.
In 1959, although he received an offer from the US Department of Defense to work on a secret project called DARPA and add a creative perspective to the team, he did not accept this offer, thinking that the confidential information he obtained would affect his works, and only presented an article on how the US could increase the creativity of its employees.
Separated from Gertrude Blugerman, the mother of his two children, in 1973, Asimov married screenwriter and psychiatrist Janet Jeppson, but fell ill with AIDS when infected blood was transferred to him during a bypass surgery in 1983.
The cause of death of Asimov, who died in Manhattan at the age of 72 due to the AIDS disease he was caught in 1992, was shared with the public only ten years after his death.
During his lifetime, he won the Hugo award, which is well known to science fiction lovers, and given to the best science fiction work of the previous year, six times. We start with the Prelude to Foundation, which is the beginning of the story in chronological order, not with the first published Foundation book, although the fans reacted to Asimov’s most well-known series, The Foundation.
First of all, let’s list the Foundation series in order of release and according to the chronological progression of the story. Start by making your choice accordingly.
Which Book Should I Start Reading The Foundation Series?
Foundation Series According to Books Relase Date
- Foundation in 1951
- Foundation and Empire 1952
- Second Foundation 1953
- Foundation’s Edge 1982
- Foundation and Earth 1986
- Prelude to Foundation 1988
- Forward to Foundation 1993
Foundation Series in Order of Reading
- Prelude to Foundation
- Forward to Foundation
- Foundation and Empire
- Second Foundation
- Foundation’s Edge
- Foundation and Earth
You can think of it like the Star Wars series. The release dates of the books and the order of the story told are not the same. Although the foundation fans got angry, I followed the reading order from the beginning to the end of the story. However, if you wish, you can read according to the release dates of the books.
Summary of Prelude to Foundation
Prelude to Foundation begins when a mathematician named Hari Seldon presents his statement at a convention on the Empire-ruled planet Trantor that future events can be calculated with statistical probabilities.
“Imagine how scientists work with subatomic particles. These particles are in vast numbers, each moving or vibrating in a haphazard and unpredictable fashion, but beneath all this turmoil there is order; so we can build a quantum mechanics that can answer all the questions we know how to ask. When we consider societies, we substitute people for subatomic particles, but this time there is an extra factor such as the human mind. Particles move unconsciously, humans the opposite. When we take into account the various behavioral patterns and effects that the mind creates, the system becomes so complex that there is not enough time to deal with all these problems.” – Page 21.
However, despite all these impossibilities in practice, Seldon’s discovery did not go unnoticed by the Empire, and it was thought that a political benefit could be obtained from this discovery. A mathematician who says that the planet under the command of Emperor Cleon will be magnificent in the future is a very useful person.
The novel continues as Hari Seldon encounters Hummin, whom he thinks is trying to protect him from the Empire, and tries to put his discovery into practice by hiding from the Empire with historian Dors Venabili.
The Topic of Prelude to Foundation
The Foundation series chronicles how humanity, spanning millions of planets, fell into decline while living under one central authority, the Empire. The scientific basis of what is told is based on quantum mechanics and the fact that the day will come when humanity will establish an interplanetary life.
The series reveals with its content that the results that can occur with the application of quantum mechanics to social sciences are quite interesting. The fact that people will establish a life among planets is not the product of a fantastic mind, but a fact that science finds as a possibility.
Those who want to do research on the subject can look at the Kardashev scale. Humanity has not even transitioned to the first type of interplanetary life, which is the second stage in its civilization. However, it is thought that we will take a step towards this life in 200 years.
Yes, the event narrated in Prelude to Foundation, does not contain as short as a contemporary literary work, nor does it contain great discoveries about ordinary human reality, but it manages to establish a political atmosphere regarding the present and future of humanity in a very powerful way.
Prelude to Foundation Quotes
The book begins with a number of political remarks:
“The Emperor was actually nothing more than a symbol of the Empire, like the Spaceship and the Sun crest, but much less common and much less real. Now he represented the Empire, which had become a heavy burden on the shoulders of the people, its soldiers and officers spread all over the place, not the Emperor.”- Page 16
The novel, like every literary work, builds what it wants to tell on concrete realities of life. Therefore, instead of describing the collapse of an Empire with fancy words and political fights, he prefers to describe it with small signs:
“This is not something done consciously. Deteriorated points on the rails are repaired, worn wagons are maintained, magnets are replaced. But all this is done with an extremely sloppy understanding, it is not cared for as much as it used to be, and the intervals between maintenance are getting longer. There are not enough credits.” – page 84
Or a sign that the protagonist Hari Seldon saw on the planet Mycogen, where he was on his journey:
He pointed to the inscription GO TO THE SAN TUARY, vaguely glowing on a series of wall-mounted shelves. The C of the Sanctuary was not lit, either it had happened nearby and had not yet been noticed, or no one cared. (Selldon thought the Empire was in decline. All parts. Including Mycogen.) – Page 327
I care about details like that too. It seems possible to me to understand the situation of an institution and a country from similar things. There were such situations in the country that Gürsel Korat described in the Land of Sleep. Here is a similar situation:
While Burak was talking, the door number of our house came to mind: 5 out of 25 had fallen, my door number appeared as 2. I pointed to the number with my finger and warned Burak: “The number needs to be renewed.” The doorman was not there. It meant business. He was certain he wouldn’t be interested. As a result of this, our gate remained number 2 opposite 26.” Gürsel Korat – The Land of Sleep Page 84
So I really think we can tell from things like that that a galactic empire is collapsing.
General Evaluation Prelude to Foundation
The most distinctive feature of the Foundation series is that it promises an incredibly immersive and fluent reading, and that it can express deep thoughts in a permanent way despite its easy-to-read and non-tiring structure.
There are no pages in the novel with concise words befitting a literary text. There are only concrete life situations. If Asimov wants to make a big speech, it is not the identity he has established as the narrator; makes his characters do it. For example, Hari Seldon’s critical attitude towards the sciences is:
“How harmful can over-specialization be,” Seldon muttered to himself. “It breaks information into a million pieces and leaves it bleeding.” – page 105
It’s basically like a critique of Asimov’s years at university. However, Asimov makes these well-known words happen to his characters. It never interferes. Therefore, the narrative has a third-person and limited divine perspective. We only know what goes through the mind of the main character. (By the way, I recommend Gerard Genette’s Narrative Discourse book to those who are interested in narrator genres. There are types of narrators out there, which I cannot go into details here.)
On the other hand, Asimov, while explaining the laws of robots, similar to the discussions about artificial intelligence (which you can find in the book Life 3.0) years ago, put a responsibility to think in the reader’s memory.
“There are three robotic laws that govern my behavior, traditionally listed as follows… or it was listed a long time ago:
1) A robot may not injure a human or, by inaction, allow harm to a human.
2) A robot must obey all orders given by humans as long as they do not conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect itself as long as it does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
But… Two thousand years ago I had a friend. Another robot. Not like me. It could be easily understood that he was not human, but he was the one with the mental powers, and I got my powers from him.
According to him, there should have been a more general law than these three laws. He called it the Zeroth Law because zero preceded one. This law was:
0) A robot may not harm humanity or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
So the First Law would become:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, by inaction, allow harm to a human being unless it is in conflict with the Zeroth Law.” – Pages 546 – 547
A new problem then emerged that the robots had to think about.
“How can we tell which action is in the best interest of humanity or not?”
This brings us to the beginning idea of the novel. In order to understand the results of our discoveries in the future and to take precautionary measures for the problems that may arise, we must return to the social sciences and re-establish the bridge between mathematics and social sciences by valuing human beings.
Asimov has also been very successful in creating an atmosphere with the language he uses that moves the five senses. Considering the importance of atmosphere in a science fiction novel, it would not be wrong to state that the atmosphere created by Asimov takes the novel to a very high level.
Only in a few parts of the plot elements of randomness are overemphasized, and in the end, the narrative is hastily completed with a character who explains everything, with a twist that shocked us in a page or two like the deus ex machine(1) in almost primitive texts.
The same problem existed in Altered Carbon, which also appeared on Netflix. Eventually one of the characters would come out and summarize everything and tell us that it wasn’t as we understood it. Although these problems do not show up in Foundation Establishment. The narrative remains a seminal novel suitable for science.
Books of Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov, who started writing short science fiction stories from the age of 20, is an incredibly prolific writer, his 72-year life is hard to believe, from 90,000 letters and post cards he wrote alongside his academic studies, to 500 books he contributed to and over 300 stories he wrote. quality works. It is quite difficult to make a list, but the most well-known series and the novels of these series are as follows.
The Foundation Series
- Prelude to Foundation
- Forward to Foundation
- Foundation and Empire
- Second Foundation
- Foundation’s Edge
- Foundation and Earth
Galactic Empire Novels
- Pebble in the Sky
- The Stars, Like Dust
- The Currents of Space
The Robot Series
- The Caves of Steel. 1954
- The Naked Sun. 1957
- The Robots of Dawn
- Robots and Empire
Did you know that Honda named its famous robot Asimov to honor Isaac Asimov?
Footnote 1: It has a great place in ancient Greece, but its use in today’s criticism is mostly used for an author to share a fact that he has known all along with the reader after he messes things up too much, or to solve everything at once with a character who is suddenly included in the text. They call this character deus ex machine. Not a positive thing for contemporary literature.
Review Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Briefly my Opinion
One of the few series that can turn people into big science fiction enthusiasts is the foundation series. Prelude to Foundation is the novel that is the subject of the beginning of this series. Not bad at all.