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Second Foundation
 
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Second Foundation [Format Kindle]

Isaac Asimov
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)

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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

THE MULE It was after the fall of the First Foundation that the constructive aspects of the Mule's regime took shape. After the definite break-up of the first Galactic Empire, it was he who first presented history with a unified volume of space truly imperial in scope. The earlier commercial empire of the fallen Foundation had been diverse and loosely knit, despite the impalpable backing of the predictions of psychohistory. It was not to be compared with the tightly controlled "Union of Worlds" under the Mule, particularly during the era of the so-called Search. . . .

ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA*


1

TWO MEN AND THE MULE

There is much more that the Encyclopedia has to say on the subject of the Mule and his Empire but almost all of it is not germane to the issue at immediate hand, and most of it is considerably too dry for our purposes in any case. Mainly, the article concerns itself at this point with the economic conditions that led to the rise of the "First Citizen of the Union"--the Mule's official title--and with the economic consequences thereof.

If, at any time, the writer of the article is mildly astonished at the colossal haste with which the Mule rose from nothing to vast dominion in five years, he conceals it. If he is further surprised at the sudden cessation of expansion in favor of a five-year consolidation of territory, he hides the fact.

We therefore abandon the Encyclopedia and continue on our own path for our own purposes and take up the history of the Great Interregnum--between the First and Second Galactic Empires--at the end of that five years of consolidation.

Politically, the Union is quiet. Economically, it is prosperous. Few would care to exchange the peace of the Mule's steady grip for the chaos that had preceded. On the worlds that five years previously had known the Foundation, there might be a nostalgic regret, but no more. The Foundation's leaders were dead, where useless; and Converted, where useful.

And of the Converted, the most useful was Han Pritcher, now lieutenant general.


In the days of the Foundation, Han Pritcher had been a captain and a member of the underground Democratic Opposition. When the Foundation fell to the Mule without a fight, Pritcher fought the Mule. Until, that is, he was Converted.

The Conversion was not the ordinary one brought on by the power of superior reason. Han Pritcher knew that well enough. He had been changed because the Mule was a mutant with mental powers quite capable of adjusting the conditions of ordinary humans to suit himself. But that satisfied him completely. That was as it should be. The very contentment with the Conversion was a prime symptom of it, but Han Pritcher was no longer even curious about the matter.

And now that he was returning from his fifth major expedition into the boundlessness of the Galaxy outside the Union, it was with something approaching artless joy that the veteran spaceman and Intelligence agent considered his approaching audience with the "First Citizen." His hard face, gouged out of a dark, grainless wood that did not seem to be capable of smiling without cracking, didn't show it--but the outward indications were unnecessary. The Mule could see the emotions within, down to the smallest, much as an ordinary man could see the twitch of an eyebrow.

Pritcher left his air car at the old vice-regal hangars and entered the palace grounds on foot as was required. He walked one mile along the arrowed highway--which was empty and silent. Pritcher knew that over the square miles of palace grounds, there was not one guard, not one soldier, not one armed man.

The Mule had need of no protection.

The Mule was his own best, all-powerful protector.

Pritcher's footsteps beat softly in his own ears, as the palace reared its gleaming, incredibly light and incredibly strong metallic walls before him in the daring, overblown, near-hectic arches that characterized the architecture of the Late Empire. It brooded strongly over the empty grounds, over the crowded city on the horizon.

Within the palace was that one man--by himself--on whose inhuman mental attributes depended the new aristocracy, and the whole structure of the Union.

The huge, smooth door swung massively open at the general's approach, and he entered. He stepped onto the wide, sweeping ramp that moved upward under him. He rose swiftly in the noiseless elevator. He stood before the small plain door of the Mule's own room in the highest glitter of the palace spires.

It opened--


Bail Channis was young, and Bail Channis was Unconverted. That is, in plainer language, his emotional makeup had been unadjusted by the Mule. It remained exactly as it had been formed by the original shape of its heredity and the subsequent modifications of his environment. And that satisfied him, too.

At not quite thirty, he was in marvelously good odor in the capital. He was handsome and quick-witted--therefore successful in society. He was intelligent and self-possessed--therefore successful with the Mule. And he was thoroughly pleased at both successes.

And now, for the first time, the Mule had summoned him to personal audience.

His legs carried him down the long, glittering highway that led tautly to the sponge-aluminum spires that had been once the residence of the viceroy of Kalgan, who ruled under the old emperors; and that had been later the residence of the independent princes of Kalgan, who ruled in their own name; and that was now the residence of the First Citizen of the Union, who ruled over an empire of his own.

Channis hummed softly to himself. He did not doubt what this was all about. The Second Foundation, naturally! That all-embracing bogey, the mere consideration of which had thrown the Mule back from his policy of limitless expansion into static caution. The official term was "consolidation."

Now there were rumors--you couldn't stop rumors. The Mule was to begin the offensive once more. The Mule had discovered the whereabouts of the Second Foundation, and would attack. The Mule had come to an agreement with the Second Foundation and divided the Galaxy. The Mule had decided the Second Foundation did not exist and would take over all the Galaxy.

No use listing all the varieties one heard in the anterooms. It was not even the first time such rumors had circulated. But now they seemed to have more body in them, and all the free, expansive souls who thrived on war, military adventure, and political chaos and withered in times of stability and stagnant peace were joyful.

Bail Channis was one of these. He did not fear the mysterious Second Foundation. For that matter, he did not fear the Mule, and boasted of it. Some, perhaps, who disapproved of one at once so young and so well-off, waited darkly for the reckoning with the gay ladies' man who employed his wit openly at the expense of the Mule's physical appearance and sequestered life. None dared join him and few dared laugh, but when nothing happened to him, his reputation rose accordingly.

Channis was improvising words to the tune he was humming. Nonsense words with the recurrent refrain: "Second Foundation threatens the Nation and all of Creation."

He was at the palace.

The huge, smooth door swung massively open at his approach, and he entered. He stepped onto the wide, sweeping ramp that moved upward under him. He rose swiftly in the noiseless elevator. He stood before the small plain door of the Mule's own room in the highest glitter of the palace spires.

It opened--



The man who had no name other than the Mule, and no title other than First Citizen looked out through the one-way transparency of the wall to the light and lofty city on the horizon.

In the darkening twilight, the stars were emerging, and not one but owed allegiance to him.

He smiled with fleeting bitterness at the thought. The allegiance they owed was to a personality few had ever seen.

He was not a man to look at, the Mule--not a man to look at without derision. Not more than one hundred and twenty pounds was stretched out into his five-foot-eight length. His limbs were bony stalks that jutted out of his scrawniness in graceless angularity. And his thin face was nearly drowned out by the prominence of a fleshy beak that thrust three inches outward.

Only his eyes played false with the general farce that was the Mule. In their softness--a strange softness for the Galaxy's greatest conqueror--sadness was never entirely subdued.

In the city was to be found all the gaiety of a luxurious capital on a luxurious world. He might have established his capital on the Foundation, the strongest of his now-conquered enemies, but it was far out on the very rim of the Galaxy. Kalgan, more centrally located, with a long tradition as aristocracy's playground, suited him better--strategically.

But in its traditional gaiety, enhanced by unheard-of prosperity, he found no peace.

They feared him and obeyed him and, perhaps, even respected him--from a goodly distance. But who could look at him without contempt? Only those he had Converted. And of what value was their artificial loyalty? It lacked flavor. He might have adopted titles, and enforced ritual and invented elaborations, but even that would have changed nothing. Better--or at least, no worse--to be simply the First Citizen--and to hide himself.

There was a sudden surge of rebellion within him--strong and brutal. Not a portion of the Galaxy must be denied him. For five years he had remained silent and buried here on Kalgan because of the eternal, misty, space-ridden menace of the unseen, unheard, unknown Second Foundation. He was thirty-two. Not old--but he felt old. His body, whatever its mutant mental powers, was physically weak.

Every star! Every star he could see--and every star he couldn't see. It must all be his!

Revenge on all. On a humanity of which he wasn't a part. On a Galaxy in which he didn't fit.

The cool, overhead warning light flickered. He could follow the progress of the man who had entered the palace, and simultaneously, as though his mutant sense had been enhanced and sensitized in the lonely twilight, he felt the wash of emotional content touch the fibers of his brain.

He recognized the identity without an effort. It was Pritcher.

Captain Pritcher of the one-time Foundation. The Captain Pritcher who had been ignored and passed over by the bureaucrats of that decaying government. The Captain Pritcher whose job as petty spy he had wiped out and whom he had lifted from its slime. The Captain Pritcher whom he had made first colonel and then general; whose scope of activity he had made Galaxywide.

The now-General Pritcher who was, iron rebel though he began, completely loyal. And yet with all that, not loyal because of benefits gained, not loyal out of gratitude, not loyal as a fair return--but loyal only through the artifice of Conversion.

The Mule was conscious of that strong unalterable surface layer of loyalty and love that colored every swirl and eddy of the emotionality of Han Pritcher--the layer he had himself implanted five years before. Far underneath there were the original traces of stubborn individuality, impatience of rule, idealism--but even he, himself, could scarcely detect them any longer.

The door behind him opened, and he turned. The transparency of the wall faded to opacity, and the purple evening light gave way to the whitely blazing glow of nuclear power.

Han Pritcher took the seat indicated. There was neither bowing, nor kneeling, nor the use of honorifics in private audiences with the Mule. The Mule was merely "First Citizen." He was addressed as "sir." You sat in his presence, and you could turn your back on him if it so happened that you did.

To Han Pritcher this was all evidence of the sure and confident power of the man. He was warmly satisfied with it.

The Mule said: "Your final report reached me yesterday. I can't deny that I find it somewhat depressing, Pritcher."

The general's eyebrows closed upon each other: "Yes, I imagine so--but I don't see to what other conclusions I could have come. There just isn't any Second Foundation, sir."

And the Mule considered and then slowly shook his head, as he had done many a time before: "There's the evidence of Ebling Mis. There is always the evidence of Ebling Mis."

It was not a new story. Pritcher said without qualification: "Mis may have been the greatest psychologist of the Foundation, but he was a baby compared to Hari Seldon. At the time he was investigating Seldon's works, he was under the artificial stimulation of your own brain control. You may have pushed him too far. He might have been wrong. Sir, he must have been wrong."

The Mule sighed, his lugubrious face thrust forward on its thin stalk of a neck. "If only he had lived another minute. He was on the point of telling me where the Second Foundation was. He knew, I'm telling you. I need not have retreated. I need not have waited and waited. So much time lost. Five years gone for nothing."

Pritcher could not have been censorious over the weak longing of his ruler; his controlled mental makeup forbade that. He was disturbed instead; vaguely uneasy. He said: "But what alternative explanation can there possibly be, sir? Five times I've gone out. You yourself have plotted the routes. And I've left no asteroid unturned. It was three hundred years ago--that Hari Seldon of the old Empire supposedly established two Foundations to act as nuclei of a new Empire to replace the dying old one. One hundred years after Seldon, the First Foundation--the one we know so well--was known through all the Periphery. One hundred fifty years after Seldon--at the time of the last battle with the old Empire--it was known throughout the Galaxy. And now it's three hundred years--and where should this mysterious Second be? In no eddy of the Galactic stream has it been heard of."

"Ebling Mis said it kept itself secret. Only secrecy can turn its weakness to strength."

"Secrecy as deep as this is past possibility without nonexistence as well."

The Mule looked up, large eyes sharp and wary. "No. It does exist." A bony finger pointed sharply. "There is going to be a slight change in tactics."

Pritcher frowned. "You plan to leave yourself? I would scarcely advise it."

"No, of course not. You will have to go out once again--one last time. But with another in joint command."

There was a silence, and Pritcher's voice was hard, "Who, sir?"

"There's a young man here in Kalgan. Bail Channis."

"I've never heard of him, sir."

"No, I imagine not. But he's got an agile mind, he's ambitious--and he's not Converted."

Pritcher's long jaw trembled for a bare instant, "I fail to see the advantage in that."

Présentation de l'éditeur

Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels are one of the great masterworks of science fiction. As unsurpassed blend of nonstop action, daring ideas, and extensive world-building, they chronicle the struggle of a courageous group of men and women dedicated to preserving humanity's light in a galaxy plunged into a nightmare of ignorance and violence thirty thousand years long.

After years of struggle, the Foundation lies in ruins—destroyed by the mutant mind power of the Mule. But it is rumored that there is a Second Foundation hidden somewhere at the end of the Galaxy, established to preserve the knowledge of mankind through the long centuries of barbarism. The Mule failed to find it the first time—but now he is certain he knows where it lies.

The fate of the Foundation rests on young Arcadia Darell, only fourteen years old and burdened with a terrible secret. As its scientists gird for a final showdown with the Mule, the survivors of the First Foundation begin their desperate search. They too want the Second Foundation destroyed…before it destroys them.


From the Paperback edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1366 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 304 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0553293362
  • Editeur : Spectra (1 juin 2004)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B000FC1PWU
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°39.862 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Book 5 ? 3 janvier 2012
Format:Format Kindle
Je crois qu'il y aune erreur dans le titre. C'est le troisième tome de la série. Donc Book 3, et non Book 5 !
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Un pur régal en VO 3 août 2013
Par JF
Format:Poche
La fin d'un mutant, l'émergence de la deuxième fondation, une gosse attachante, et une intrigue qui vous prend et ne vous lâche pas... Peut être un peu plus difficile à lire en anglais que les volumes precedents (quoi que), mais vaut largement l'effort.
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2 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 tres bon livre 31 août 2009
Format:Poche
Suite de la série fondation, très bon livre qui continue la psychohitory de Hari Seldom. A lire absolument ainsi que toute la série fondation pour les fans de SF
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  1.192 commentaires
301 internautes sur 336 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Epic 20 juin 2008
Par Thomas Wikman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
The Foundation trilogy (three first books) and the Foundation series (all seven) are often regarded as the greatest set of Science Fiction literature ever produced. The Foundation series won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Isaac Asimov was among the world's best authors, an accomplished scientist, and he was also a genius with an IQ above 170, and it shows in the intelligently concocted but complex plots and narrative. There are already 331 reviews for this Science Fiction novel, however, I still believe I have something unqiue to contribute which is stated in my last paragraph.

This book and the rest in the series take place far in the future (allegedly 50,000 years) at a time when people live throughout the Galaxy. A mathematician Hari Seldon has developed a new branch of mathematics known as psychohistory. Using the law of mass action, it can roughly predict the future on a large scale. Hari Seldon predicts the demise of the Galactic Empire and creates a plan to save the knowledge of the human race in a huge encyclopedia and also to shorten the barbaric period expected to follow the demise from 30,000 years to 1,000 years. A select people are chosen to write the Encyclopedia and to unknowingly carry out the plan to re-create the Galactic Empire. What unfolds in this book and in the books that follow is the future history of the demise and re-emergence of a Galactic Empire, written as a series of adventures, in a similar fashion to the Star Wars series.

Even though this is arguably the greatest set of Science Fiction novels ever written, I do not recommend it to those who are only mildly interested in Science Fiction. Character development is not the focus of these novels and the large amount of technical/scientific details, schemes and plots can become both confusing and heavy for the unitiated Science Fiction reader. If you read this one you will feel the need to read the others which may take a long time. If you are new to Science Fiction start with something lighter and when you are hooked you can continue with this series. Also, in my opinion the second and third books were better than the first.
113 internautes sur 126 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Foundation trilogy is essential 6 octobre 2002
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
The trilogy is essential, but since Asimov also capitalized on his own genius by writing what seems to be hundreds of lesser Foundation stories, it can all get very confusing and a bit draining. This is the second book in the original trilogy, so it is from a science fiction point of view essential reading. The trilogy itself comes up with two highly memorable characters, Hari Seldon, the psycho-historian, who uses Mathematics to predict the future and establish a "Foundation" that will limit the dark ages after the fall of the "Empire" to a single millenium (as opposed to ten.) He reappears as a hologram at certain points in the story with more or less accurate takes on what is happening in "History" at that point.
The other very memorable character is the Mule. He represents the variable that makes predicting "History" mathematically a tricky business at least, not to mention impossible. He is a nasty totalitarian character who strangely in Asimov's hands manages to elicit some sympathy. Asimov is playing with the idea of predicting human behavior scientifically (or controlling it scientifically,) but this character is also a humanistic meditation on how masses of people get overwhelmed by evil social forces like fascism and soviet communism. You can see that Asimov lived through the era of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Stalin and that these cult of personality tyrants and the submission of masses of people to their destructive and sadistic wills profoundly affected his view of human nature. Foundation and Empire seems to be an attempt to come to terms with that experience, and so has something to say about the specifics of twentieth century history, as well as about historical philosophy.
176 internautes sur 203 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." 13 septembre 2003
Par John S. Ryan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
[The quotation is from Salvor Hardin, Mayor of Terminus.]
Let's say it's around 1940 or so; you're studying chemistry in grad school but your true love is history; you've read Edward Gibbon's _The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_, but writing a historical novel set in the _past_ would require just too much research; you get the bright idea of writing a historical tale set in the _future_, about the decline and fall of a _Galactic_ Empire, and you suggest as much to John W. Campbell, Jr.
Campbell's response: he gets excited and suggests that you introduce some pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo about "psychohistory". Do you:
(a) drop the idea and write something else?
(b) write the story just as Campbell describes it?
(c) use a little imagination, make Campbell's idea a bit more intellectually presentable, and crank out, not just a single story, but a Hugo-award-winning series?
If you picked (c), congratulations; you're Isaac Asimov.
The Hugo didn't come until 1965, when the Foundation series won for best all-time series (defeating even Tolkien's _Lord of the Rings_ books). By then Asimov had long ago tired of the series; you can tell by the first part of the third book. (But the _second_ part of the third book is probably the best part of the original three volumes.)
And heck, even in order to keep it going _that_ long, he had to introduce a radical departure from the Seldon Plan, in which the Mule initiates not just another Seldon Crisis but a new element altogether, one that wasn't accounted for in the Plan. (And in even later installments, it becomes pretty clear that Asimov isn't exactly thrilled by either the Plan or the Empire it's supposed to bring about.)
But in the first volume, all of it is still fresh. Here we meet Hari Seldon for the first time, get slightly acquainted with his mathematical science of psychohistory, and learn what he's done to keep the decline of the Galactic Empire from leading humanity into 30,000 years of barbarism. He can't avert the decline, but he's got a way to reduce the period of barbarism to a mere millennium.
He's set up two Foundations at opposite ends of the galaxy. And he's carefully set the ball rolling so that every so often there will be some sort of sociopolitical crisis, to which there's only one possible resolution. All the Foundation has to do is wait until the crisis narrows everything down to just one option, and then figure out what the heck that option _is_ . . .
Well, I think you can see that the pattern leaves some room for the exercise of intelligence, but not a lot for individual initiative. No wonder Asimov let the Plan start going awry; the story might have lasted a thousand years, but the dramatic possibilities wouldn't.
Anyway, it's a great, great series. This is where it begins in realtime, although the later novel _Prelude to Foundation_ is "first" according to the chronology of the Foundation universe. (And the Empire novels -- _Pebble in the Sky_, _The Stars, Like Dust_, and _The Currents of Space_ -- take place even earlier. So do most of the robot stories.)
If you haven't read it yet and you think you might be an SF fan, you'll want to get around to it pretty soon. Start here, and enjoy.
47 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Kindle edition is a watered down disaster 22 novembre 2013
Par J. Callen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This review is specifically of the Kindle edition, published by Ballantine/Bantam.

The Foundation Trilogy is a wonderful piece of work, but the Kindle edition butchers it! Someone has decided to water down Asimov's prose, eliminating some of the more enjoyable passages of the book. Here are some examples, found by comparison with an old Bantam Doubleday hardcover edition.

Several pages into chapter 3, Salvor Hardin is arguing with the Encyclopedists about the decline of the Empire.

Original: "If you ask me,", he cried, "THE GALAXY IS GOING TO POT!"

Kindle: "If you ask me,", he cried, "THE GALACTIC EMPIRE IS DYING!"

In chapter 5, Hardin is again meeting with the Encyclopedists and discussing the threat received from Anacreon.

Original: The message from Anacreon ... boils down easily and straightforwardly to the unqualified statement ... "You give us what we want in a week, or we beat the hell out of you and take it anyway."

Kindle: The message from Anacreon ... boils down easily and straightforwardly to the unqualified statement ... "You give us what we want in a week, or we take it by force."

I'm going to be asking for a refund.
20 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Foundation Series is the biz 19 novembre 2002
Par DavidLG1971 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
Asimov had an active and brilliant imagination - truly, a scientist writing fiction. This series is science fiction on a grand scale. When you keep in mind that this story originated in 1951, it is easy to see how much Star Trek, Star Wars and yes even Heinlein's & Clarke's later works borrowed from these ideas.

Anyway, Asimov at his best was a creator; he had amazing ideas of the universe, how it worked, and how to structure stories that manipulated the readers expectations.

The Foundation series is like a spider web that continues to become more intricate and complex with each chapter. The intricacy of the plotting is amazing, although honestly it's not self-evident in the first few stories of the first novel, given that they were published independantly, as serialized short stories told one at a time.

Only with the second book did this change.

The basic premise: The rise and fall of the roman empire, told on a galactic scale from a historian living in the 2nd empire a thousand years later.

The setup: One man creates a science, called Psychohistory, a fictional precursor to Chaos Math (a real statistical science today). This psychohistorian, Hari Seldon, predicted that the vast Galactic Empire is about to crumble, dropping humanity back into the dark ages. This dark ages was due to last 30,000 years (I believe), and while it is too late to prevent this horrible breakdown of society, Seldon believes he can use this new math to shorten the time period between empires.

To do so, he establishes two "Foundations" made up of scientists, one at the outer edge of the galaxy, and the other at "Star's End". In advance, Seldon plots out the future (using the math of psychohistory), and sets in motion a series of "domino" events. The Foundation faces crises and problems, forcing change in both strategy and focus for the next several hundred years. But Asmimov continues to modulate the story throughout each of the books, and building upon the previously-understood structure.

In fact, once you think you've read enough permutations on the same idea, Asimov starts tearing the structure down, introducing variables into the story that further complicate matters.

A caveat about the most often-touted complaint about Asimov: His writing style (or lack thereof):

In 1951, when these stories were first published, Asimov was not a great writer - as in, a writer of literature. His descriptions, characterizations and storytelling technique all left a lot to be desired. His technique got better with the passing years, such that any of his fiction written after 1970 or so reads easily.

But that is not the point, here. Asimov didn't create great characters (save for his robot stories) - he came up with mind-bending ideas and subsequent permutations.

The litmus test of whether or not Asimov is for you: Read 'The Last Question'. It's a 12-page short story. Not brilliantly written, but a fantastic story with amazing ideas contained inside. When you get to the last sentence of it, you will probably be blown away. If you are, Foundation is for you.

Read them - and commit to all of them, because they get better as they go, generally speaking. The first three were written in 1950 - 53. But the fans demanded that he someday continue the story, so he continued with a fourth book in 1983, and the last in 1986. Some complain that the last book is overlong - and I agree - but the last sentence of the last book is...amazing.

The books:

Foundation
Foundation and Empire
Second Foundation (contains the best story - Search By The Mule)
Foundation's Edge (best overall book)
Foundation and Earth

Afterward, Asimov went back and wrote prequel novels (Prelude to Foundation, Foundation's End) taking place prior to and concurrently with events from the first book. He later admitted that he wrote prequels because the main story had gotten so complicated, he felt he'd taken the story as far as it could go.

The prequels aren't too bad, but they are completely non-essential.
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