Asimov’s Foundation Series Revisited

This was my 51st year walking the Earth. I know, this makes me sound a little like the David Carradine character on that show Kung Fu. I assure you that I am neither a martial artist nor an autoerotic asphyxiation devotee. But, during this past year, I did read Isaac Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy for the second time.

The first time I read this series of books was when I was a teenager. You do the math: that was a while ago. At this rate, if I read it a third time it will be when I’m pushing 90 years old. If that’s not something to live for, I don’t know what is.

This trilogy is comprised of the following books, originally published in the 1950s: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. This time, the story did seem a bit more dated than the first time I read it, like a ’50s science fiction movie. I even pictured it in black-and-white in my mind. It is space opera of the best sort with a changing cast of characters over a span of 500 years or so. Grand stuff based on grand ideas. My favorite sort of science fiction.

When I first discovered Asimov in my local library, I was amazed to find that he had written so many different books that could be found up and down the Dewey Decimal System in the card catalog (this terminology probably sounds like science fiction to you if you’re too young to remember those things). By the time I discovered him he had written about 300 books, fiction and non-fiction. Before he died at 72, the number was nearly 500. The word ‘prolific’ should have his photo next to it in the dictionary.

I discovered Asimov around the same time I was discovering Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg, Arthur C. Clarke, and dozens of other writers. I was comforted then, as I am now, by the fact that there was so much existing material out there that I hadn’t read yet. The fact that one man had written so much of it by himself was a little staggering. For a burgeoning bibliophile, this was great news.

The Foundation books were among my favorites of Asimov’s fiction, along with his Robot stories. I’m not alone there, of course. I remembered this when HBO announced that they purchased the rights to make a Foundation series. This inspired me to read the books again.

Asimov published two sequels to the original trilogy: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth in the 1980s. I read those as well, long ago, of course, and am re-reading them now. Copies of both books arrived at my house from Amazon yesterday. He also wrote two prequels, Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation which I read within the past few years and won’t be reading again any time soon. Sequels to Asimov’s Foundation novels were published in the late ’90s. These were written by Greg Bear, David Brin and Gregory Benford. I haven’t read these yet, but I have ordered them from Amazon as well. I found used copies of the hardcover books for a penny each (plus $3.95 shipping, of course).

Of course, I’ve read nothing about the HBO series since Jonathan Nolan’s name was originally attached to it. I’m not even sure it’s still being made.

That doesn’t matter. Not really.

The impetus of my desire to read this material (both again and for the first time) is secondary to the act itself. Sure, I would love to see a properly made HBO Foundation series, with the production values of, say, Game of Thrones. If it doesn’t happen, I still have the stories in my head.

Who says I need hobbies?

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