Monday, January 9, 2012

Foundation Group Read: Part 1 (of 2)

Another group read led by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings is going on right now and it's probably not too late to join in if you're interested.  This is a short, interesting, and easy book to read.  What more could you ask for in January? (Especially if you've over-committed on readalongs this month as I have.)
Here are the questions posed for the first half of the book:

For the purpose of satisfying curiosity, is this your first time reading Foundation or have you read it before?
This is my first time reading.  I've checked it out from the library before without getting to it.

For those reading Foundation for the first time, what expectations did you have going in and has it met them or surprised you in any way?

I came into this with a pretty blank state.  I know that Asimov is a renowned sci-fi writer, so I do have high expectations because of that.

What are your thoughts about the structure of the novel thus far? (I am referring to the brief glimpses of different parts of the history of the Foundation with big time gaps between events in the novel)

For those who have read Dune, I'm just finding it refreshing that the excerpts from the Encyclopedia Galactica are much less ambiguous than Princess Irulan's work that begins each chapter.  I'm usually not a fan of books that cover huge spans of time--I prefer works where the author delves really deep into a shorter time period--but it's not bothering me in a major way.  I don't really feel like I know any of the characters, but then I don't think that's the purpose of the book, thus far anyway.  I feel like we're getting to know mankind as a whole in a broad sociological sense.

What are your initial thoughts on the field of psychohistory?

I find it interesting as a form of prophecy based on mathematical science, inevitably coupled with questions that the people will have:  What if he was wrong or made a mistake in his calculations?  Did he have any hidden agenda in sharing this information?  Even if it is true, what do we care what happens to the empire after we're dead?

What, if anything, is holding your interest thus far, what are you enjoying about Foundation?

The story is interesting, and the ease of reading it is admittedly a bonus!

What, if anything, are you not enjoying about Foundation?

I had a hard time with the guy who didn't pronounce his "r"s.  It's not Asimov's fault that I'm reading this post Princess Bride, but I couldn't keep  myself from hearing the priest who performs the "mahwage" and talks about "twu wuv."

You may have covered this in answering the other questions, but if not, what are your thoughts/feelings about the Galactic Empire.  Is it a practical thing to have a galaxy spanning government? Can you imagine such a thing and do  you think it would work?

I just think it would be impossible.  It's mind-boggling to think of the size of the galaxy and how the government could keep tabs on everyone and prevent some sort of secession or rebellion. You just can't keep that many people happy.  Which of course is what is slated to occur and we are seeing the beginning of that unraveling. 

What are your thoughts on Hardin's creation of a religious system in which to house scientific ideas and technology while keeping the users of that science and technology in the dark?
I hate the idea of manipulating the people even though I see his purpose in doing so.  I'm also kind of disappointed in the people for not seeing through it, or for not being capable of accepting the scientific ideas disguised as mysticism.  There's got to be at least one freethinker among them!   Also, the whole concept kind of twists our modern way of thinking--these days you more often see religion being explained in scientific ways, like the science of prayer, or trying to prove ways that the Red Sea could have been parted, etc. in order for religion to be more accepted.  All very thought-provoking stuff.  I can't wait to see where he goes with it.


  1. Interesting that you bring up Princess Irulan's writings because I instantly thought of them when I started reading Foundation this time. I actually really enjoyed her writings, but I was coming at the from the standpoint of having seen the Dune film dozens of times and so I knew what she was referencing. Coming at them both cold you are correct, the Encyclopedia is much more straight forward, which is fitting.

    I think you have the purpose of the book down just right, which is why there is not a lot of focus on the characters and won't be unless they serve a particular function to the direction of the story. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea. I usually prefer the opposite, but in the case of these books I really do enjoy what Asimov was trying to do.

    Your questions about psychohistory are interesting. My experience in the more hard core SF community is that there is definitely a lot of care and concern over what will happen in the future even though we won't be around to see it happen. If Seldon's creation was true, I would be fascinated by how it would effect the way we live.

    Yes, definitely a lot of Princess Bride in Lord Dorwin's speech, or the opposite I guess since Dorwin came first.

    I'm not big on the manipulation either, but it doesn't seem wildly out of character for people at a certain stage of humanity to have superstitious beliefs and to assign more mystical explanations to things that seem like magic.

  2. Of course we also don't know if there aren't really any free thinkers because we are only getting glimpses of significant point in the history. There actually might be people questioning that we don't know about. Perhaps people that are quickly repressed by those in the know?

  3. I loved the Dune and the Princess Irulan comparison. The blurbs from this work are much easier. So far I am really enjoying the political intrigue. I am also amazed that there haven't been too many freethinkers among the religious crew and those working on the encyclopedia. It really leaves the door open for someone like Hardin to try to manipulate the system. I'm curious to know how much Hari predicted that that would happen.

  4. That is a good point. I didn't think of that.

  5. Love the priest in Princess Bride. If I ever get married, I expect at least one of my friends to try to bribe the priest to talk like that...

    It seems like there might be free-thinkers outside the Encyclopedia, but they seem to get ignored. At least, that's how it seems to me, because Sermak hinted that popular opinion didn't lie with Hardin.

  6. I'll have to pay more attention to that. Thanks!

  7. Oh, I wish you were reading it with us Melissa.

  8. I have been meaning to read this for years. I may have to bump it up the TBR list soon.

  9. I liked Irulan's writings, they were just a lot of work for me to figure out. As far as the questions about psychohistory, I should clarify that they are questions not that I had or thought the reader would have, but that the people in the book would have asked upon thinking about Seldon's predictions. It makes me think about issues like global warming, and trying to balance what society needs now and what will be good for the world in the future. Very true about superstitious beliefs explaining the mysteries of science.

  10. Grace, that would be so funny! If that happens, be sure to put it on Youtube...
    The Action people have definitely felt the freedom to oppose Hardin's rule, but I was thinking more about the people on Anacreon, because that's where it seemed like the religion was so ingrained in the society.
    Carl, I guess at this point we can just leave that idea to our imaginations, since he really hasn't said either way or gotten into specifics among the general populations. I'll just pretend there are some and that will put my mind at ease.

  11. They were a lot of work, especially with no familiarity with the story. If one had the time it would almost be worth re-reading them after the story ended as they act as hints for what is going to happen but they are way too vague for the first time reader to figure out.

    Oh, and I understand about the questions and I think you are right and they are astute questions.

    That whole religious/science plot line is so relevant today in some ways, and your thoughts on global warming are a good example of that.

  12. Yes, you should join us! It's pretty doable to squeeze in.

  13. Lynn, I'm horrible at remembering character names! I couldn't remember the name of the "r" guy,and I didn't bother looking it up either, because I figured he wouldn't come back, lol.

  14. I love that you just read the Princess Bride - I also just read it before Christmas - I was thinking of the 'in con ceiv able' guy with his speech impediment! Made me laugh thinking of it again!
    You make a good point about not getting attached to the characters because you're not supposed to. I think the only thing that becomes a struggle is remembering everyone's names - I know that probably sounds a bit simple minded of me but because all the chapters are relatively short and therefore each person's part also short - I feel like I've just come to terms with one person and then we've jumped forward 50 years. I don't dislike this structure though, just had to come to terms with remembering everyone and then I was okay.
    Lynn :D

  15. What do we care about the Empire after we are dead? I guess, i took that angle and applied it to how we are trying to be green with everything we do here on Earth at this point in time. What do we care about the Earth when we are dead? We care for our children, future children, future grandchildren, etc. I am not an environmenalist at all and acutally am not that green, but that is how I viewed the huge desire said by Seldon for trying to decrease the years of turmoil once the Empire falls.
    That was what came to mind while reading.

    I compeltely agree with you...the ease of reading is a fantastic bonus. yay.

    I did not have much difficulty with Lord Dorwin. But, I do wonder if that is because I am parenting a child with an incredible speech impairment and am very accustomed to interpreting his words into how they should actually be said.

    The vastness of the Empire is incredibly mind-boggling. I do not think they could avoid rebellion.

  16. I completely agree with you on your thoughts about ensuring a good future for our posterity, and that that is Seldon's desire as well.
    It sounds like you've had lots of practice in translating unclear speech. I have a fourth grader who is having trouble with her "r"s and some general articulation problems, so I've had just a tiny bit of that myself. My problem was that I had that priest from Princess Bride stuck in my head from the get-go and couldn't let it go, lol.

  17. Rats, wish I'd known about this earlier -- I read the entire Foundation series as a teenager, and would love to see what I thought about them now. Maybe I can catch up for part 2. Great point about being disappointed by the people not being able to see through the mysticism, by the way.

  18. I love it - the 'r' guy - excellent. I find that I have to keep flipping back to check out who fits where. I've only just got Seldon's name - and that's because he is consistently through the book!

  19. I hope you are able to catch up and join in. Carl is also planning group reads for the next two in the trilogy later in January and February.

  20. I finally have time to get to everyone's posts! sorry I'm so late to the party.

    As you've noticed, not only is Asimov not a "characterization" kind of guy, but the human characters aren't really the main focus of this story - it's The Foundation that's the main focus, and we get to meet people who are intimately involved with the Foundation. 60+ years later, and the story doesn't feel dated, does it?

    Dorwin has to be completely hilarious if you're just coming off of Princess Bride!