The Foundation novels come together on audiobook. Review by S.K. Slevinski

Book Cover

On Audio
In this 2004 production from Books on Tape, Scott Brick reads Isaac Asimov's initial Foundation Trilogy in an unabridged seven CD set. Brick's voice, which is becoming something of a fixture among alternative reality audiobooks thanks to the ongoing audio production of Ender's Saga, brings some life to this otherwise concept-heavy classic.

The Foundation novels tackle an intriguing speculative idea—in a world of galactic empires where even humanity's Earthly origin is lost to the turning of time, one man has the genius to interpret and manipulate the course of history for thousands of years into the future using mathematics. He is Harry Seldon, a professor of psycho-history within one of the largest cities in the galactic empire. When he predicts the fall of the empire centuries in the future, the imperial hierarchy puts him on trial for treason. What Seldon reveals at trial, however, turns the conflict into a private negotiation with the emperor. Seldon reveals that while the fall of the empire cannot be prevented, the rise of the empire once again after a dark age can be quickened—if Seldon and his team are permitted to continue their work by compiling a vast encyclopedia of knowledge then the period of dark ages can be taken to a minimum. The emperor agrees, but for reasons of politics, sends Seldon and his group out to the frontier of the empire, to an unsettled planet where metal is scarce. However, what appears as exile to the outside observer is actually a carefully orchestrated move on Seldon's part to effect his own vision of the future. The messages Seldon leaves for his successors in the encyclopedia project on the planet Terminus soon (that is, fifty years after his death) reveal that his plans for manipulating history go much deeper than the simple preservation of knowledge.

Book Cover

In Print
The Foundation trilogy is considered a classic of science fiction by many readers. I will not argue with that, for its concept is intriguing and ambitious. To tell the story of the fall and rising anew of an interplanetary empire over thousands of years is vast endeavor and novel for its time. If concepts alone can sustain your interest, this book will provide a fascinating read—made particularly entertaining by Scott Brick's narration. However, as necessitated by the concept, this book cannot be much of a character story. Seldon and his overshadowing influence form the only consistent character throughout this trilogy. To move with the tides of history, characters must necessarily be left behind in the forward advance. For the periods of time that we do stay with the same characters, they are characterized only to the extent that they have their own plans or ideas for the assertion of power and the path of empire-building. Characters here are primarily a vehicle for the politics that power Asimov's millennial arch of history. Brick's narration, as usual, is excellent, but even he cannot make up for the stock characters of these books, where the writing seems to make every gesture and line of dialog into a cliché. While clichés may be necessary for the predictable forward progress of history, they don't make for terribly engaging reading.

This book would be perfect for the science fiction fan who is also a history buff. Others may find that concept is not enough to sustain this trilogy.

Post your comments, reactions and opinions of The Foundation Trilogy or this review.

S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.

Alternative Reality Web Zine: ISSN# 1559-3037

All materials on these pages (including fiction, poetry, essays, articles, interviews and opinion pieces) are copyrighted to the original authors and may not be reproduced without permission.

See who's visiting this page.View Page Stats