The following is a review of Asimov's final book of fiction. (Apart, that is, from a pair of mediocre collections of short stories and essays: Gold and Magic.) I wrote it when the book was finally published, after several of the portions had already appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction. I posted it to a couple of Los Angeles bulletin boards.
Forward the Foundation, Isaac Asimov's last novel of the Foundation, has just been published by Doubleday books. (List price is $23.50, but I've seen it for as low as $14.10 at Bookstar, so shop around.) It is not, as some ad copy may lead you believe, the climax of the series, since it comes between Prelude to Foundation and Foundation. And truth to tell, but the "action" of the book was in large part pretty well implicit in what had already been published. It adds nothing necessary to the saga of the fall of the Galactic Empire and the rise of the Foundation. But--
As a book of characters it is, relatively for Asimov, remarkable. He fills the aging Hari Seldon (seen as a young man in Prelude and, briefly, as a relic in Foundation) with passion and love and pain, dedication, determination and despair. And all of this in pursuit of his ultimate goal, the setting up on the planet Terminus of the Encyclopedia Galactica Foundation with the intent of rebuilding human civilization after the fall of the political entity of the Galactic Empire.
I mentioned the characterization. There is also the description of a society with declining social services and decaying infrastructure, painfully reminiscent of our country today. There is a character, a political pedagogue, who reminds me at turns of, well, Hitler, Pat Robertson, and even H. Ross Perot. There are robots (chiefly behind the scenes), court intrigues, plots, spies and counterspies, friends, lovers, sons and granddaughters, enough to keep you entertained to the end.
But most of all it is the story of Hari Seldon as he loses nearly everyone he has ever cared for, but grasps the future.
Copyright © 1995, 1997 by Matthew B. Tepper
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