Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Spotlight #3: Prelude to Foundation

"Prelude To Foundation" 
by: Isaac Asimov

Quote Highlight: "Halfway through the speech, Seldon realized he was speaking to the Emperor Cleon, First of that name, and he felt the wind go out of him." - Asimov

When mathematicians put pen to paper they tend to be writing a thesis or some textbook... one certainly doesn't expect a novel to come to light. Asimov is the exception. Having recently watched the HBO adaption of the Thrones series, I had to try George R.R. Martin's books for myself. No surprise, the book series blew the TV adaption out of the water. The genre of science fiction was back in for me. I instantly moved on to try out Asimov, who is referred to as the "father of sci-fi". He starting writing around age 10 and was completing full blown novels by the age 19. He's penned hundreds of publications but a few of his series's have become famous, including "The Foundation Series." If you've seen the movie I Robot with Will Smith,you've seen Asimov's work, it's based off a book of his. Get the picture? Now let us turn to the Foundation series, starting with, Prelude to Foundation.

The series is set in a time so far into the future that humans have inhabited not just our solar system or even our own galaxy, but multiple galaxies. It's a time so far from our own present day that the human species is not sure where they originated from, with multiple planets claiming to be the original birthplace. Some even scoff at the idea that humans came from one single planet. Obviously this book will make you think. Hari Seldon is our main character for the novel, a 32 year old mathematician. It starts with this young Seldon presenting a mathmatical paper during a convention on the capital planet of all known existence, Trantor. To give you some scope, this planet is home to over 40 Billion people in this futuristic planet, a planet so large that dozens of "farm planets" are needed to feed all the people living on it. Seldon presents his paper on a groundbreaking theory. He claims that it is theoretically possible to start mathematically predicting future events, coining the term psycho-history (a combination of math, sociology, and history). Of course the main story unfolds in the events that begin to take place after the presentation. The entire galaxy is at stake as the repercussions from Seldon's presentation are felt all the way up to the Emperor himself. Combining futuristic world's, advanced technology, and still human characters with everyday human emotions, it's hard not to get sucked into this world. I did.

Asimov's writing style is especially appealing to me. He writes in a way that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions, or forces you to try and deduce what will happen next. At the start of each chapter, there is a blurb in italics that comes with a few sentences quoted from the "Encyclopedia Galactica." These passages are clearly from sections of the encyclopedia that were written far into the future of the current time period in the book. Usually, the passage is a reflection on what will come in the next chapter or on one of the characters. In this way, the reader is able to begin to ascertain new facts and outside information that is not available at the time of the story. It's almost as if there is a history book that was written about the story you are reading and you get to read it while the story is ongoing. I can't give specific examples without ruining plot lines, so I hope that explanation was enough.

I highly recommend not just this book but the entire series. However, this book will get your feet wet and let you see if its a style for you. Although the story-line is advanced, twisting and turning, the character developments are not the emphasis for Asimov. As the crowned "father of science-fiction" his writing really does live up to the hype. The novel is set in a complex world where complex decisions are made, however the humans still maintain normal emotions and personal relationships that make for a nice equilibrium of futurism while still being relatable.