Foundation Book Summary and Study Guide

This was the very first book that started it all! It may be of interest to learn that the introductory scene involving Hari Seldon was written AFTER the rest of the first book was complete, and yet, it's the most interesting part.

Basically, the story goes like this: Hari Seldon invents "psychohistory", a method of predicting what the future will be like on a large scale. Unfortunately, psychohistory predicts that the empire will fall into barbarism, so the Empire doesn't like that very much. As a result, they excile Hari and his staff to a planet on the edge of the galaxy, called "the Foundation".

But this is all in Hari's plan; he hopes to use the Foundation to shorten the period of barbarism that will follow after the Empire's fall from 30,000 years to a mere 1,000 years. Using psychohistory he had predicted what is likely to happen in the future, and set things up so the barbaric period will end relatively quickly.

The first book quickly turns its attention to Salvor Hardin, one of the first leaders in the early years of the Foundation. The Foundation is menaced by its neighbors, who want its land and nuclear technology for itself. Hardin's idea is to do nothing and his favorite phrase is "violence is the last refuge of the incompetent", and by doing little or nothing the Foundation survives, first by playing off the competing kingdoms in the area after each other, and then by using religion to control the kingdoms.

The story in the first half is riveting, especially the scene featuring the face to face showdown with Hardin's nemesis, Wienis, who wants to take over the Foundation. The second half of the book is much slower, and not very much happens by comparison. But I find Salvor Hardin's motto of "do nothing" to be not very persuasive. For one thing, he incites the entire religious class to rise up and revolt against the attacking kingdom--that's hardly doing nothing! For another, his "violence is the last refuge" motto was odd, given the time this book was written--during World War II, when we were fighting the Nazi's! Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but was Asimov saying, during the height of WWII, that we should sit on our hands and do nothing?

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Foundation

A pscho historian, Hari Seldon, figures out using Psycho-history that the empire will fall in 3 centuries. He has a station set up in Terminous, called the Foundation, where his people will make an all powerful encyclopedia. 50 years later, long after Seldon is dead, they open up his vault and figure out that it wasn't their main purpose to make the book.
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Throughout the story, a character named Hardin is pushed back and forth between the four kingdoms because they know Terminus has nuclear power. Something they want. He sticks to his motto and does nothing.
The review of this Book prepared by Elf

Foundation is aptly named.   While not the first book to explore the idea of Galactic Empire (E.E. Smith wrote the first great novels of action across the galaxy) it is certainly the most widely read.   This seminal work set the groundwork, the foundation if you will, for how to explore the themes of politics, power plays, and a sweep of history in a science fiction setting.   Many works of science fiction are indebted to this, the seminal work.   Dune, Niven's Known Space, The Left Hand of Darkness, Star Wars, etc., all are the outgrowth of this book.

The plot of the book is simple enough.   The Galaxy is ruled by an all-encompassing Empire tottering on the brink of collapse.   Only one man is able to see the chaos that is coming: Hari Seldon.   Fortunately, he has a plan.   Using a scientific discipline he calls ‘psychohistory,' he comes up with a way to save the galaxy from thousands of years of anarchy.      He creates a society that will be the foundation of a new empire (get it?).

This book is actually a collection of the short stories published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1942.   Sequentially they tell a riveting story of a band of human beings and their leaders, attempting to make their way in an increasingly warlike and barbaric galaxy.   A true page-turner from beginning to end, this is what good science fiction is about.   I can't help but envy anyone reading it for the first time.

The review of this Book prepared by Eduard Gaskin

Hari Seldon, the greatest scholar of the Galactic Empire, creates the science of "PsychoHistory" to predict the future by mathematically modelling the behavior of the galactic society. He forsees the fall of the Galactic empire into "barbarity" for tens of thousands of years. To prevent this, he sets up a "Foundation" at the fringe of the galaxy. Their mission - though the settlers don't realize it at the time - is to be the foundation for a new and more stable Galactic society and government.
The review of this Book prepared by Allen Vander Meulen

Asimov's "Foundation" books (at least the six main ones) are the epitome of science fiction. His deft manipulation of Hari Selden's mathematical historical projections (he calls it "psychohistory") is breathtaking and eminently believable. As an added bonus, it is an exciting, gripping story through three volumes of time-shifting short stories and three short novels.
The review of this Book prepared by Kelly Whiting

Chapter Analysis of Foundation

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 10%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 60%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 30% Tone of book    -   cynical or dry-wit FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story Political power play    -   Yes Political plotlets    -   preventing/managing clash/war between govts/kingdoms Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   politician/elected ruler    -   scientist Age:    -   20's-30's    -   60's-90's


A substantial portion of this book takes place on a non-Earth planetary body:    -   humans in a futuristic society    -   big overbuilt futuristic city    -   very controlled society Planet outside solar system?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   generic/vague references to death/punishment scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed    -   a significant amount of technical jargon How much dialogue?    -   significantly more dialog than descript

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Foundation

Isaac Asimov Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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