Foundation Group Read, Part One

Today is the first group discussion of Foundation, by Isaac Asimov.  Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings is the host of this group read.  Please note that in my discussion and in the comments there may be spoilers to the novel.  For those who would like to follow all of the discussions please visit this page.  If you aren’t involved in the group read but would still like to contribute to the discussion please feel free to add comments.  Everyone is welcome to share.

Here are the questions for this week:

For the purpose of satisfying curiosity, is this your first time reading Foundation or have you read it before?

This is indeed my first time reading this novel. 

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?

To be honest, I didn’t know about this series until Carl mentioned that he was hosting a group read of the novel.  I had heard of Isaac Asimov but I didn’t know much about his writings except that he wrote science fiction.  As to my expectations I didn’t have many.  Carl had mentioned that he read the series before and he has led me in the right direction for at least three other novels so I was pretty confident that I would enjoy the story.  So far I am really enjoying the novel, which means that Carl is 4 for 4 in recommending works for me.  For those wondering, the other novels I’ve read with Carl are Dune, The Way of Kings, and Storm Front.

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)

So far, this novel is telling a massive story.  It is covering years and years.  For me, the structure is working beautifully.  Each vignette tells an important and interesting part of the story.  I feel like each one is a clue to the big mystery and each part keeps my interest and gives me just enough insight to want more but keeps enough hidden so I haven’t figured it out yet. 

What are your initial thoughts on the field of psychohistory?

At first I didn’t know where Asimov was going with his psychohistory construct.  And I will admit in the initial stages of my readings I thought that it would date the book too much for me and that would lesson my enjoyment of the novel.  However, as the story unfolded I saw that this was a creative method of keeping Hari Seldon, who developed psychohistory, as an integral part of the story.  This doesn’t mean that I buy the whole theory and that I think that this method can actually predict future events.  But I am believing in it for the purpose of this story and for me that is all that matters.    

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

There are two major factors that are holding my attention and making me want more.  First, I like the mystery.  I don’t know what is going to happen and that makes it exciting.  Asimov is creating this world and I sense that something big, maybe cataclysmic will occur and I want to know what it is.  Hari Seldon seems to hold the answer.  Also I am loving the political intrigue in the novel.  I am a political person.  I majored in history and political science in school and I love the complexities of both.  I find it interesting that this novel was published in the 1950s and that atomic power and weapons were such a large part of the story, and of Asimov’s society.  In 2012, they still are. 

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

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything.

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?

Well not many empires can last forever.  History has shown repeatedly that every great empire will fail.  This doesn’t mean that empires will not be created and that some influential and powerful families/dynasties won’t try to dominate large amounts of territory. This is an interesting book for me to read at the moment since I recently moved to London.  Every day, in the paper and on TV, I hear about the Eurozone crisis and maybe imminent disaster and breakup of the Euro.  Before moving from the US I knew of the crisis, but it wasn’t until I moved to the UK that I really started to follow it closely.  And reading this novel about an empire that is trying to hold itself together is perfect for the time. 

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 found this aspect of the novel to be quite fascinating and I’m curious to know more.  Usually, I wouldn’t associate a religious system as the keepers of technology like atomic power.  It just feels odd to me.  What makes it more believable for me is that the keepers of the science and technology are deliberately kept in the dark about their powers and workings.  I can’t wait to see how this works out in the end.

I finished the first part of this novel early last week.  And since I wanted to stick to the structure of the discussions I set the book aside for the rest of the week.  I am so happy that we are discussing the first part since now I can pick the book up again and see what happens next!

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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47 Responses to Foundation Group Read, Part One

  1. niasunset says:

    I will keep following and reading you dear TBM, it seems would be amazing. Thank you, with my love, nia

  2. The Hook says:

    Sounds like a cool read!

  3. Carl V. says:

    Well, that doesn’t make me feel any pressure at all! LOL!

    Whew! I’m glad you are enjoying it then. I like your use of the word “vignettes” for that is a good accurate description. In reading your comments it popped into my head that it is almost like being in a time machine going back to view the collapse of the galactic empire and the beginning of the Foundation. We stop in at various places along the timeline to get the feel of what was occurring just then and jump forward to see what happens next, extrapolating to some degree the in between events that led to this place.

    I’m glad you like the mystery, for there is more of that to come, in the next two books as well.

    The use of religion as a control but also to some degree as a benefit to those other planetary societies is an interesting one. I like how we see that Hardin is starting to get a little paranoid, despite his confidence, as Seldon’s next supposed visit approaches. He is concerned about how many people he has had to let in on the religious angle and worries that his trust may be misplaced.

    It has been long enough that I cannot recall what happens at Seldon’s next visit and like you I stopped until today and now cannot wait to get back to it. These discussions light that fire even more.

    • TBM says:

      I almost wrote, “If you need a good suggestion for a book, contact Carl” but I thought that would be way too much pressure. However, I do know that you can suggest a lot of books and movies.

      Yes it is like a time machine. Great way of describing it. We see a glimpse at a certain time and gather some information and see how it fits into the puzzle. I love a good mystery, however I haven’t read too many mysteries. I need to correct that. (Are suggestions flooding your mind right now?)

      Seeing Hardin get nervous makes it more fun for me. He seems like he has everything under control, but his nervousness suggests to me that something big is going to happen. And I’m curious to see what the next visit reveals!

      So glad that the discussions are beginning so I can settle down tonight in bed and read!

      • Carl V. says:

        Of course they are! But I’ll control myself for now.

        I’ll be tucking back into it tonight as well as my bed time reading if not before.

        The time will no doubt come when you’ll pick up something I was wild about and go “huh?”. But given that I’m already 4 in the positive I have a little room to swing and miss. And if you end up reading and liking the next two books, I’m going to count those individually and be up to 6 of 6. 😉

      • TBM says:

        Well I’ll have to hit you up before RIP this year for suggestions. So far I’m considering The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Thin Man (the book, but I do own all the movies), Interview with a Vampire, and I think one more but I can’t remember. I’ll be ready for this fall, and hopefully I won’t be moving.

        I may start reading soon. It will be dark here soon so I could always head to bed early. 6 out of 6 would be a great stat for you.

      • Carl V. says:

        I was going to suggest The Thin Man. And sometime after reading The Thin Man you’ll have to take a chance on The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. It is different and has mixed reviews but I liked it a great deal and it is among other things an homage to The Thin Man.

  4. TBM says:

    Maybe I’ll read The Manual of Detection for the following RIP. I’m toying with the idea of watching all of the Thin Man movies again this fall. I absolutely adore them.

  5. Grace says:

    I love that you compared the Galactic Empire to modern day Europe. It’s neat to see the ideas present in a 1950s novel still feel current right now. It also reminded me a bit of Rome.

    • TBM says:

      Whenever I think of empires I think of Rome. It is the history nerd in me. The novel does seem current to me. It is amazing how little we have moved forward.

    • Carl V. says:

      That is being largely discussed on the Classic SF Book Club site as well, the comparison’s to the Roman Empire. And I believe someone mentioned today that Asimov was inspired by books about Rome’s decline and fall.

      • TBM says:

        Do you mean Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall? I never read Gibbon but his works are on my personal history nerd book list. Along with Herodotus’ Histories. Maybe when I’m retired living on a beach…I can dream can’t I.

        I can see the connection to the far flung empire of Rome.

      • Carl V. says:

        Yes, I believe that was it. I was too lazy to go track down the conversation thread over on that site, ha!

  6. TBM says:

    If he read all of Gibbon, I’m impressed. I don’t know much about Asimov, but I thought he was a scientist, which impresses me even more that he delved into such a history adventure. Incidentally, he used to teach at BU School of Medicine. I used to work there in an administrative role. I didn’t know this until I picked up this book and read the little bio in the front.

    • Carl V. says:

      That’s cool that you intersected with him in that way. He was certainly a scientist, but one of the things I loved was reading his introduction to Robot Dreams where he says, and I’m paraphrasing, that he never let science get in the way of telling a good story.

      • TBM says:

        I like that. You have to respect his ability to see all sides and not get bogged down by facts. Too many stories would be ruined. It’s good to cut loose and have fun.

      • Grace says:

        Agreed. I think that’s kind of why the psychohistory thing works so well here. Yeah, the science of it is a bit shaky, but it’s a necessary plot device.

  7. TBM says:

    I agree with you Grace. At first I thought the shaky science would make me dislike the book, but it is needed to move the story along.

  8. Caroline says:

    I didn’t even notice this readalong. It would be for me at this point in time but great that you are enjoying it.

  9. Caroline says:

    wouldn’t, I meant….

    • TBM says:

      It is an entertaining read. I am hoping that at some point this year we can participate in a group read. I always love hearing your thoughts. I need to get on the ball and track down some of the books for your war readalongs.

  10. Shelley says:

    I love that this science fiction classic so far seems to dwell more on historical/political ideas than on scientific ones. A little bit more of a comfort zone for me, I guess. I’m not necessarily good with politics, but I’m really bad with science!
    Like you said, history has shown that empires will inevitably fall apart eventually. I’m interested in this idea of trying to prevent too long of a “dark” age, and if it will really work, and in finding out how accurately Seldon had it all figured out.

    • TBM says:

      Oh science classes and me did not get along all that well and I was horrible with math. I’m loving the history and political science aspect. I never thought science fiction would cover these subjects. I’m not sure what I thought they would be like, but I feared that most of it would be way over my head.

      I can’t wait to see how much Seldon knew!

      • Grace says:

        I think that a lot of sci-fi has a political focus… part of the fun of sci-fi is that you can deal with controversial topics/ideas by using a story, much like the Cold War tensions are explored here.

      • TBM says:

        I will have to explore more sci-fi since I love politics. I never thought of using sci-fi to open the door to discuss controversial topics, but I’m finding that it is a brilliant way to do so.

  11. lynnsbooks says:

    Hi
    Enjoyed your comments. Just checking out everyone’s posts now – quite a bit to catch up on already!
    I’ve enjoyed this first part much more than I thought I would (not a big sci fi reader) and reading everyone’s comments just adds something more.
    I was reading on another site (not one for this readalong) where somebody had criticised the book for not having enough description but I actually think that makes it read better. I think that if the book was overly descriptive it would age it somehow.
    BTW would be interested to know what you think of Interview with a Vampire if you do pick it up – I haven’t read it but have always fancied doing so.
    Thanks
    lynn 😀

    • Carl V. says:

      I think this is a book that, like the Galactic Empire, would topple if it was too top-heavy with description. Asimov writes it in a “less is more” style that works well for the kind of story he is trying to tell.

    • TBM says:

      Hi Lynn! I love the group read format, especially since I am also a newbie to this genre. And it is so much fun to hear how other people view certain aspects of the novel. I didn’t even notice the lack of females in the story until Jeff brought it up.

      I agree with you, if Asimov bogged down the work with technical jargon that didn’t make sense the book would not have stood the test of time.

      I’ll probably read Interview with a Vampire for Carl’s RIP this fall. And of course I will share my thoughts.

  12. TBM says:

    Hi Lynn! Sounds great. I won’t be reading it until September but I’ll make sure to let you know. It will be fun to read it with someone. I was surprised that this novel came out in 1976. It is almost as old as me. I’ve read her Witching Hour series, which I enjoyed for the most part. The second one in the series was a bit rough. But I haven’t delved into her vampire chronicles yet.

  13. ibeeeg says:

    My interest level in this story increases with each part of the story because like you said, they add clues to the big mystery of it all.

    Like Grace mentioned, I really liked your comparison of modern Europe to the Empire. That is an interesting aspect of this book, how it still seems to relate to our present day all these years after it was first published.

    Like you, I set the book aside to stick with the discussion. I am glad that I can pick it back up considering that we left off with a build up with the religious aspect and the threat of war.

    • TBM says:

      It is like the author is dangling a little piece of candy in front of us with each story to keep us focused.

      When I was answering the question about the Empire and if I thought it could work, the current Euro problems instantly jumped into my mind. I’m glad the comparison worked. One of the things I really like about this novel is that it is still relevant and I understand the central issues.

      I picked up the book last night and the excitement is rapidly increasing. I’m looking forward to the discussion next week.

      • Carl V. says:

        I sat down and tore through most of the rest of the book last night. I would have finished it but I was just too tired. Dang getting old!

      • ibeeeg says:

        Ha! Getting old is right, and along with that comes a scattered brain for me which makes it difficult to stay on task at times. I found myself reading the next several chapters until midnight – did not start until close to 1130. Need be more focused on my list of to-dos so I can get to reading sooner.

  14. TBM says:

    You were more successful than me Carl. I wanted to read more but I was so tired. I only read around 20 pages. Old age is difficult!

  15. TBM says:

    Hi Ibeeeg! I didn’t settle down until 10pm and then I fell asleep soon after. Sounds like we both need to get better organized so we can enjoy our readings more.

    • ibeeeg says:

      Yes indeed. I cannot argue that fact for me. Which puts to mind, I need to stop commenting on blog posts, and get to starting my Favorites Books Read in 2011 post. Yep, I am behind. Then move on to reading, or maybe tending the house. hmmm…which one will win out? 🙂

  16. Redhead says:

    I’m just now getting around to reading everyone’s responses.

    I’m happy you didn’t find the book dated. It’s amazing that a story that’s over 60 years old can still feel fresh and up to date. political maneuverings haven’t changed much in all that time, have they? I’ve always liked the “vignette” style of Foundation, it allows Asimov to jump around in time and space, yet focus on what he needed to tell us without getting bogged down.

    it’s been about 10 years since I last read this, it feels great to get back into it!

    • TBM says:

      It is really sad how much politics have not changed over the past 6 decades. I loved how he framed the novel since he can cover such a long time without writing a massive tome that is too bogged down in detail. It is kinda like being a historian and piecing together historical records to see what happened to a society. I’m liking the feel of that.

      Glad to hear that you are enjoying your re-read of it. That says a lot about a book if you can read it again and still really enjoy it.

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