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Old 08-18-2018, 03:27 AM
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Default Isaac Asimov and the history of our future

Over the last few months I read through Asimovs works again, for the first time since my late teen years. His Foundation Trilogy and the books connected to it introduced me to science-fiction, though I never found something quite like Asimovs stuff again. Often too much action and not enough talking, for my taste.

I'm at the second novel of the Foundation Trilogy, and the trilogy as a whole is my favourite of his. Asimovs short stories work better than his longer stuff, maybe because the focus on ideas instead of people isn't that much of a problem there. Together with all the other novels Asimov connected together, the universe Asimov created feels truly epic. This shows mostly here, as there are decades between each story, and the Foundation itself changes all the time.

Also, I can't help but think that the general of the second book of the trilogy, Bel Riose, is based on Belisarius, Justinians general, who tried to reconquer Italy.

Any other fans of Asimov here? Has anyone read the three novels that were written after Asimovs death, which play during Hari Seldons life?
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Old 08-18-2018, 09:47 AM
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I was a teenage asimov fan as well! Although my tastes have grown to appreciate stories that emphasize character over idea much more since then, I still love the Foundation series. I re-read the original three a few years back (I also collected the Michael Whelan covers for each).

I think the second is perhaps the most engaging. The main character of the third, Arkady, is my favorite character, but I have a hard time figuring out who we are supposed to root for in that story. I'll be interested in how you feel about it.
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Old 08-18-2018, 11:21 AM
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I've thought about making an all purpose sci-fi thread for a while, but hey we'll talk about Foundation.

I read the original trilogy, and the two sequels. I have not gotten into the prequels. I think I like the first book the most. The second book too was overall very good. The third book....ehhh, I didn't find it as engaging. Unlike Dracula, I thought Arkady was a very annoying lead character.

I kind of wish the series followed the format of the first book, but I still enjoyed it for what it is. Foundation's Edge was pretty darn good, but it's basically telling a different story. Foundation and Earth is in my opinion for completionists only. It didn't add anything to the story that Foundation's Edge told.

I have some more standalone Asimov books to read, but after reading a bunch of his short stories and most of the Foundation books, I need a little breather. I've got a whole bunch of other sci-fi books to keep me occupied for a while!
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Old 08-20-2018, 09:45 AM
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I read and enjoyed all the Foundation books back in middle and high school - which was a long-ass time ago for me (late 80s / early 90s). I've been curious how well they would hold up for the very different person I am today, but I'm afraid that idea is way down the media/books back-log for me....
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Old 08-20-2018, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Sir Sly Ry View Post
I kind of wish the series followed the format of the first book, but I still enjoyed it for what it is. Foundation's Edge was pretty darn good, but it's basically telling a different story. Foundation and Earth is in my opinion for completionists only. It didn't add anything to the story that Foundation's Edge told.
Foundation and Earth is, I think, mainly fanservice. You know about him connecting his various stories together? The planets that are visited in Foundation and Earth are the planets that play an important role in the Eliyah Bailey (or Spacer) novels, which Asimov later connected with the Foundation novels. The connections make the whole universe feel bigger and definitely add something, even though the connection novels tend to feel a bit like fanfiction (especially Robots and Empire).

Anyway, if you haven't you should read the first two Eliyah Bailey novels if you like Asimov and enjoy detective novels. The plots aren't that interesting to me, but the portrayel of Earth in the future and (in stark contrast) one of the settled planets in the second book are really interesting, and semi-dystopian. Good stuff.

I'm really surprised how well the Foundation trilogy holds up for me. Maybe it's just that I don't know any other book with such a structure, at least with regards to the first book.
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Old 08-20-2018, 02:09 PM
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Are you talking about The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun? If so, isn't Caves of Steel a "sequel" of sorts to I, Robot? I thought that's what I had read. I haven't read I, Robot, but I've definitely encountered Asimov's version of robots in some of the short stories I've read.
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Old 08-20-2018, 02:21 PM
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Right, I should have mentioned the actual titles, sorry. Yes, I'm talking about Caves of Steel and Naked Sun. As I understand it, they aren't sequels, more that Asimov decided later on that they play in the same universe, as the three laws work for the robots in I, Robot and the robots like Daneel the same.

I mean, I, Robot totally works as a prequel. It playes at the beginning of the 21st century, when Robots start to get developed and the hyperjump is found out. A few thousand years later you get the two Bailey novels. That said, I, Robot has stories with a supercomputer that takes over politics in the background and a humanoid robot that can't be distinguished from a real human as mayor. So even there, the connection only works if you don't take it too seriously.
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Old 08-21-2018, 08:26 AM
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I need to reread these as an adult. My dad was the voice for the audiobooks back on cassette and I remember helping him rehearse and reading the books to understand what was going on, but I just didn't get it and am honestly not even sure I finished all of them.
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Old 08-21-2018, 08:45 AM
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Back when I read the Foundation novels in high school, I started with "Prelude" since it was listed first in the inside covers. When I got to the end of "Foundation's Edge," IIRC they were about to find Earth, and I really wanted to see this far-future Earth, but at the time, "Foundation & Earth" was out of print. So it took me a few years before I tracked down a copy of the book. Now I don't really remember anything about either of them...
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Old 08-25-2018, 12:31 PM
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So, that's the second book of the Foundation Trilogy down. I liked both stories, but it already feels like it deviates from the sort of story it was at the beginning. Partly because both stories use actual, single antagonists.

"The General" feels already like a combination of the way the first Foundation book worked, with the way it would change. There is a single antagonist, which already feels different, but it works as a way to show the general trend of how the Foundation and the Empire would develop. And, as mentioned, the influence from the actual Belisarius was a nice touch.

With "The Mule", the trend to an antagonist continues, and he is bigger and stronger than before. The story is also the longest up to now. Going over the question of how the Foundation would fare if something completely outside the Seldon plan would appear is an interesting one, and it should be covered.

Two points stand out to me, the first being that the Mule is a giant jerk. I get that he is angry at the world for being treated like dirt, but trying to leave a weak, galaxy-wide empire behind, which will definitely fall into chaos after his death is a bit over the top for a reaction. He also feels pretty overpowered. I get that he needs something that makes him strong enough to break the trend of History, but still, it feels a bit like the equivalent to powercreep.

Second point is that the Second Foundation really irritates me. I get that it is better to create another Empire that will stabilize all of civilization (probably at least, stability is just a nice thing to have). But what you actually have is this shadow council of a few people who have planned everything out, change everything so it will stick to the plan, and have no responsibility to anyone. This just screams abuse of power.

The third book is about the Mule searching the Second Foundation, right? I see now why it is hard to know who to root for than. I don't like either side much. I mean, I actually like the First Foundation, which is sort of predetermined to win, but has to work openly for it and who will bring, without actually slaughtering people, stability again to the known Universe. The Mule and the Second Foundation seem both like bad alternatives.

Anyway looking forward to the third book, but I am a bit sad that we are now past the point where we just jump from crisis to crisis, just watching History unfold. I would have liked more of that.
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Old 08-25-2018, 02:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Violentvixen View Post
I need to reread these as an adult. My dad was the voice for the audiobooks back on cassette and I remember helping him rehearse and reading the books to understand what was going on, but I just didn't get it and am honestly not even sure I finished all of them.
Wow, thatís really cool! Did he record other audiobooks?

I never read the Foundation Trilogy, but I read The Naked Sun a few years ago and I liked it a lot.
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Old 08-25-2018, 02:49 PM
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Yeah Foundation and Empire is a switch from the first book, but it was quite interesting. For whatever reason, Second Foundation (the third book) didn't really do it for me. Arkady being the protagonist in the second story of that book was a big part of it. But even the first story didn't really hook me in.

Foundation's Edge is a much better read than Second Foundation at least. It's a different story by that point, but it was still pretty enjoyable. I do think I would have enjoyed the series more if it followed the format of the first book though, and stuck to that story-line.
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Old 08-25-2018, 03:37 PM
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IIRC, Second Foundation treats the titular entity as the antagonist, but it's been a while since I read it. That's why it confused me the last time, because I had been under the assumption that the second foundation was supposed to be a failsafe for the Seldon plan. Perhaps the story is simply more nuanced than I considered.

And as noted before, I really like Arkady, so that colored my enjoyment. We'll have to see what you think, Felix.
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Old 08-25-2018, 08:55 PM
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Yeah that's pretty accurate I'd say. There are some interesting things about Second Foundation, just overall I didn't enjoy that book as much. As for Arkady, whether you enjoy that character or not is up to personal taste. Drac liked her, I didn't. Different strokes.
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