[Isaac Asimov] Prelude to Foundation

Foundation Series

  • Title: Prelude to Foundation
  • Author: Isaac Asimov
  • Published: 1968
  • Publisher: Bantam Dell
  • ISBN: 978-0-553-27839-2

It has been always assumed that anything as complicated as human society would quickly become chaotic and, therefore, unpredictable. What I have done, however, is to show that, in studying human society, it is possible to choose a starting point and to make appropriate assumptions that will suppress the chaos. That will make it possible to predict the future, not in full detail, of course, but in broad sweeps; not with certainty, but with calculable probabilities.

from the book

Prelude to Foundation” is one of the two prequels (Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation) of Asimov’s most popular Foundation trilogy. Two prequels were written quite after the original series was published.

The main plot of the Prelude is how Hari Seldon came to Trantor, the capital city of the Galactic Empire, and launched his life-long project of Psychohistory. But the more important role of the book is to link the author’s other books to construct the whole linear history of the galaxy in a consistent way. The Prelude lies between the Galactic Empire series and the Foundation series. The medium of a link is a Robot, who is governed by logic rather than reason.

The First Foundation is a scientific group (society) to provide the technical background of the progress of humanity. But we need a driver to guide science, technology, and reason to the correct direction, which is the role of the Second Foundation.

Unlike the First Foundation, the Second Foundation is a group of mathematician-psychologists who can manipulate others’ emotions and minds. Most importantly, they are guiding the progress of humanity through the mathematical prediction of the future, which seems more mystical than scientific.

Another interesting point to look at is how people can react to the prediction of the future. It really does not matter whether the prediction is correct or not. Only the fact that the prediction seems to be backed up by science is important. Hari pointed out that the prediction should be hidden from the general public because knowing the future will alter the future. But emperors and other ruling classes want to change the future by telling the future. 

RobotEmpire, and Foundation series offer a kind of history of the future, which is, perhaps, not completely consistent, since I did not plan consistency to begin with.

from the author

Most readers agree that the Prelude is not as interesting as other Asimov’s books, especially the original Foundation trilogy. It is understandable that the intent of the book is to provide a linkage between the Galatic Empire and the Foundation. Using R. Daneel Olivaw as a medium of lineage is brilliant and interesting but somewhat too contrived. 

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