It is the year 12,020 G.E and Emperor Cleon I sits uneasily on the Imperial throne of Trantor Here in the great multidomed capital of the Galactic Empire, forty billion people have created a civilization of unimaginable technological and cultural complexity Yet Cleon knows there are those who would see him fall those whom he would destroy if only he could read the future Hari Seldon has come to Trantor to deliver his paper on psychohistory, his remarkable theory of prediction Little does the young Outworld mathematician know that he has already sealed his fate and the fate of humanity For Hari possesses the prophetic power that makes him the most wanted man in the Empire.the man who holds the key to the future an apocalyptic power to be known forever after as the Foundation.


10 thoughts on “Prelude to Foundation

  1. Stephen Stephen says:

    In the realm of science fiction, Isaac Asimov s stories have always been my woobie This rings especially true for his Robot and Foundation series For me, they re a literary panic room where I can escape the stress storms and never ending deadlines of the day to day ruckus into a much simpler time where the ambient happy is always turned way up Yes yes before you say it, I ll acknowledge your gripes about Asimov and even concede to some of them Asimov wasn t as skilled a wordsmith as, say, Jack Vance, but, in fairness, how many people were He wasn t as brilliantly thought provoking as Arthur C Clarke, and rarely, if ever, used his writing to address important social issues as the likes of Heinlein, Silverberg and Ellison did Fine granted and SO what Asimov tales are just rousing good yarns told with an infectious Star Trek optimism that fills you up with the belief that humanity is destined for bigger, brighter and better things His stories are warm, cozy, familiar and fun They re comfort food a shot of optimism for the soul, like mom s chicken soup Therefore, as this is my own biased, subjective review, I shall give a hall pass to the grandmaster regarding his tendency towards clunky dialogue, his often unornamented, transparent characters and his occasional deus ex machina plot conveniences They exist and this acknowledgement is as close to criticism of these stories as I intend to come PLOT SUMMARY Written in 1988, a quarter century after the original Foundation Trilogy, this long awaited prelude to the classic series covers a critical period in the evolution of psychohistory Beginning soon after Hari Seldon s moment of eureka, when he first envisions the future chaperoning science as nothing than a curious philosophical impracticality, to the momentous events that lead to Hari s realization that psychohistory has the potential to be developed as a practical, effective tool against the Galactic Empire s pending collapse Taking place entirely on Empire s capital, Trantor, the story covers what is known as the Flight, during which Seldon is forced into hiding from Eto Demerzel, the Emperor s Chief of Staff, who wants Hari s new science to be employed for the political benefit of Emperor Cleon I While on the run, Hari travels across the massive planet, with its population of than 40Billion, and interacts with various cultures These interactions slowly work to remove the can t do fog from Hari s perception of psychohistory Oh.and there s also a chubby raising tie in to Asimov s robot novels that does a great deal to smooth out some of the earlier inconsistencies between the two series and lays the foundation no pun for a merging of the two series that had begun in Robots and Empire THOUGHTS Uh It s goodIt s fun It s comforting Flaws aside, the Foundation Trilogy was the first science fiction story I ever read and it began my love affair with the genre that continues to this day Thus, these stories will always hold a special place for me and I don t believe I ll ever discontinue to view them fondly.And with good reason, I think.Asimov was a master at the big idea He was an artist who painted stories on a ginormous canvas, depicting mega events and larger than life characters The mind bogglingly large, galaxy spanning empire he created for the Foundation series was the prototype for all of the vast galactic civilizations that came after.He thought big, he wrote big, he entertained big Yeah, I ll take that NowI did have one fanboy gripe about this installment and it stems from my frustrated desire to learn, finally, from Asimov the nuts and bolts of psych historical analysis Logically, I grant that any such explanation had no chance of meeting my expectations and that Asimov, being as astute as he was, correctly decided not to provide revelations about the inner workings of the science By maintaining the mystery, he avoided any taint upon the majesty of the idea Still, I was a tad bummed by the lack in this area.Oh well, I enjoyed myself and I loved that the story filled in gaps in both the Foundation series and the Robot novels Worth a read, it will make you smile.4.0 stars Highly Recommended Nominee Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.


  2. Ahmad Sharabiani Ahmad Sharabiani says:

    Prelude to Foundation Foundation Prequel, 1, Publication Order 6 , Isaac Asimov Prelude to Foundation is a novel by American writer Isaac Asimov, published in 1988 It is one of two prequels to the Foundation series For the first time, Asimov chronicles the fictional life of Hari Seldon, the man who invented psychohistory and the intellectual hero of the series It is the year 12,020 G.E and Emperor Cleon I sits uneasily on the Imperial throne of Trantor Here in the great multidomed capital of the Galactic Empire, forty billion people have created a civilization of unimaginable technological and cultural complexity Yet Cleon knows there are those who would see him fall those whom he would destroy if only he could read the future Hari Seldon has come to Trantor to deliver his paper on psychohistory, his remarkable theory of prediction Little does the young Outworld mathematician know that he has already sealed his fate and the fate of humanity For Hari possesses the prophetic power that makes him the most wanted man in the Empire.the man who holds the key to the future an apocalyptic power to be known forever after as the Foundation 1994 1372 572 20


  3. Apatt Apatt says:

    What I have done is to prove that it is possible to choose starting conditions from which historical forecasting does not descend into chaotic conditions, but can become predictable within limits However, what those starting conditions might be I do not know, nor am I sure that those conditions can be found by any one person or by any number of people in a finite length of time. That is pretty much the gist of what Hari Seldon, Asimov s most iconic character, tries to accomplish in Prelude to Foundation, the sixth Foundation book to be published but the very first in chronological order If you are considering reading this classic sci fi series I personally recommend reading them in publication order rather than chronological order Originally Asimov had no plan to write than three Foundation books so clearly, the original trilogy have to stand on its own and there is no reason to read the prequels to follow them Come to think of it I always recommend reading all series books in publication order, if you need to read the prequels in order to understand the original books then those original books leave something to be desired More on this topic in the notes section after the review Hari Seldon is the genius mathematicians who developed psychohistory which he uses to guide the destiny of the entire human race scattered across the galaxy In the original trilogy Seldon is a very wise old man, here for the first time we meet the legendary man in his thirties He has just conceived of psychohistory as a mathematical concept but has no idea how to make it practical At the beginning of Prelude to Foundation he is presenting his paper on psychohistory at a convention of mathematicians held in Trantor, the capital of the Galactic Empire The sensational idea of theoretically being able to predict history using mathematics brings him to the attention of Cleon I, the Galactic Emperor and his formidable henchman Eto Demerzel After summoning Seldon to quiz him about the practicality of psychohistory the Emperor lets him go but keeps him under surveillance in case he manages to make something useful out of his theory Soon after his interview with Cleon, he meets a reporter called Chetter Hummin who convinces him to go on the run as the Emperor are about to pursue him and use him for political gains once he has time to consider the potential of Seldon s theory Seldon goes to Streeling University for sanctuary where he meets Dors Venabili who understand the importance of Seldon s work and decide to protect him from his pursuers When they do come calling Seldon and Dors go on the run, with the advice of Hummin they seek sanctuary in various administrative sectors of Trantor Each sector they stay in has very distinctive, peculiar culture and social s The authorities eventually catches up with him with surprising result Trantor, one world, one cityBasically, the plot of Prelude to Foundation is Seldon and Dors on the run moving from one sector of the planet to another, experiencing each sector s weird culture, discovering clues, and getting into trouble picking up an Artful Dodger like street urchin called Raych along the way Eventually, they come face to face with Demerzel and the denouement is quite unpredictable and amusing.For the first half of the book Prelude to Foundation moves at a leisurely pace and, like Asimov s other 80s novels features lengthy stretches of dialogue The substance of the conversations is generally interesting enough not to grind the narrative to a halt, but the original trilogy is much tightly written On the other hand, in the 80s Asimov was interested in developing characters These characters are not particularly deep or subtly nuanced but they are quite likable and accomplish than just driving the plot forward Asimov was not great prose stylist but there is plenty of charm in his narrative, he seems to be having fun writing the book, gleefully including terrible puns, mischievous bits of dialogue and pulling the rug from under the reader s feet.It seems that the main idea of Prelude to Foundation is to take a closer look at psychohistory One criticism of the original trilogy that I have seen is the basic tenet of psychohistory, which has been criticized as not only impossible but unbelievable I suspect Asimov was aware of this criticism and uses it as a major theme for this novel If you are critical of the use of psychohistory in the original trilogy I don t know if Prelude to Foundation will change your mind, personally, I never minded Asimov s concept to begin with Still, this book gives psychohistory of a background and I dig it Prelude to Foundation is mostly an entertaining and pleasant read, it does become a little loquacious and dry from time to time not intolerably so, but less of that stuff would have been nice However, fans of the series should not miss it Forward the Foundation next Notes Trantor is both a planet and a city, it is an ecumenopolis , a single continuous worldwide city It is, however, divided into hundreds of sectors with around 50 million people in each Asimov did not invent Psychohistory but he did popularize it As I mentioned earlier, if you have never read the Foundation series before, I recommend starting with the original trilogy from the 50s Having said that, Asimov himself recommends the chronological order which would mean starting with this book, Prelude to Foundation However, this website shows Prelude as a supplementary volume Basically, it is entirely up to you Not reading the series at all is not an option Asimov has a funny conception of e book readers, some kind of cumbersome book viewer with a projector, not even portable There is a surprisingly violent scene with infliction of bodily harm and blood letting I don t remember any Foundation or indeed any Asimov books with this kind of action So much for Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent from the original Foundation book It is quite fun, though.Quotes Psychohistory The possibility of organizing the natural laws of society in such a way as to make it possible to anticipate the future with a substantial degree of probability No sane man wants to uphold an Imperial system that maintains itself by fostering mutual hatred and suspicions Even when it seems to work, it can only be described as metastable that is, as too apt to fall into instability in one direction or another Why do we need millions of worlds, distant worlds that mean nothing to us, that weaken us, that draw our forces far away from us into meaningless cubic parsecs of space, that drown us in administrative chaos, that ruin us with their endless quarrels and problems when they are all distant nothings as far as we are concerned Somebody wants to Trantorexit


  4. Peter Peter says:

    Unless you re just a die hard Foundation fan and have to read them all, Prelude to Foundation can safely be skipped In particular, I m not sure that I would recommend reading it prior to the other Foundation novels despite the fact that it s a prequel.It s not spoiling anything to briefly explain why this is In Foundation, which is really a shorts collection than a novel despite the fact that the stories do flow very well together, Hari Seldon is already an old man The whole premise is based upon his having mathematically predicted the future using a technique of his own devising called psychohistory He is, from page one, a legend.Prelude to Foundation attempts to chronicle Hari s invention of psychohistory as a young man The story flows much like the plot of a B action movie, right down to Hari having some small martial arts skills The young, hasty, Hari is a far less compelling hero than the iconic genius who has mathematically determined how to shorten ten thousand years of barbarism to just one thousand.Of course, Asimov is a good enough storyteller that it all hangs together decently But there s a lot of books out there to be had, and plenty of other choices even just in the Asimov shelf that are better.


  5. John John says:

    My first Asimov book, it was both wonderful and disappointing I loved the hugeness of the imagination at work here The bizarre and diverse societies of Trantor with their rituals, structures, foods, ways of living, and just the physical structure of the world itself, with multiple layers and a surface covered with sand and the occasional forest, made for fun reading As for the disappointments, although it is probably a clich at this point, I could not stand the squareness of the dialogue, the clumsy yet regular attempts at sexual innuendo, and the thinness of some all of the characters Also, and probably frustrating for me, was how the protagonist, a supposedly brilliant mathematician we are never privy as to why s or how s of his brilliance develops psychohistory, the in my opinion unfortunately named new science that is supposed to save the Galactic empire If something so complicated and so important is to be developed by someone so brilliant, I wanted to see the work the sweat, the long hours poured into research and calculations over burning candle at midnight in the Mycogen sector, and I wanted to see the pieces of this powerful science falling into place with some greater tightly wrought logic.


  6. C. C. says:

    This really wasn t that bad in fact I enjoyed it quite a lot but it was very disappointing It is an entirely different kind of book to Foundation, which was about concepts Not amazingly written, certainly, but neither was this, and without the great concepts, there s not a huge amount left.I think it would be a bit harsh to say that this book was written to cash in on the phenomenon that was Foundation, though I suspect that is part of it What probably happened is that Asimov realised that he could link up all the books he d previously written for the Foundation series and for his robot stuff into one big series, spanning thousands of years and the entire galaxy, but still essentially linked Which means he had to write a few books to go in between the early robot stories and the later Foundation series Prequals to the latter or sequels to the former It doesn t really matter, because all this book is and I expect the other prequal sequel too is a gap filler.So this book draws out connections and follows its plot in an entirely arbitrary yet painfully predictable way Unlike Foundation which was delightful because it hardly paused for a second on any particular group of characters, instead focusing on broad sweeping principles of politics and economics Prelude to Foundation follws, tortuously, the path of Hari Seldon in his quest to develop the science of psychohistory This involves close character study, something which Asimov is very bad at Also, while he s pretty good at the political economic stuff, he s appallingly bad at the anthropological side of things The definite low point of the book was the sojourn in the Mycogen sector of Trantor, during which I spent most of the time feeling both appalled and insulted.The real thing that made Foundation great was that it left so much unsaid it treated the reader intelligently, allowing them to make their own connections, instead of explaining every minute detail of a plot development whose existence any observant person would have guessed fifty or so pages earlier.


  7. Tobin Elliott Tobin Elliott says:

    Well, wasn t this a dreadful little book It s been decades since I read any Asimov, but I remember him with fondness for the the original Foundation trilogy I read in the late 70s, along with several of his other novels.I do, however, have no recollection of his narrative style whatsoever After finishing this travesty, that actually scares the shit out of me for considering the other nine books in this series.Prelude to Foundation reads like it was written by a somewhat over intelligent twelve year old who then handed it off to a university professor with absolutely no sense of humour to do final edits I ve decided, at least for this book, that Asimov is the exact antithesis of both Stephen R Donaldson and El Leonard, for different things.Where Donaldson loves to write pages and pages and pages of dialogue where characters are consistently frustrated because they need answers to questions and Donaldson actually has them mull the precise questions over in their minds but never verbalize them then become angry when they can t find the answers they seek, despite talking around the real question but somehow never getting to it Asimov, on the other hand, just has the most bare bones, unnuanced conversations you ll ever read There s no subtext, there s no ulterior motives, there s only straight, unvarnished, completely honest talk If a character needs to ask something, he asks it, and the answer comes If a character needs to argue, he busts out logic and the other side accepts that logical argument and moves on It s awful.Then there s El Leonard, a man who built a career out of having characters speak and their speech sang with humanity They sounded real, they sounded wonderful, they often spoke in circles, or buried their answers in sarcasm or venom They rarely gave straight answers, always with some other angle they were playing, but by god, you could hear that talking in your head like the characters were in the room with you Asimov, on the other hand, writes the driest, most uninspired, overly logical, overly factual dialogue you ll find this side of a first time author s unedited self published book It s awful.There s no nuance There s no blind alleys There s no personality There s no exploration of humanity or interpersonal relationships There s only facts If Hari Seldon is in a bind and needs to find a way out of it, the very next person he ll meet is the precise one he needs to meet at that time Then there s the stunning differences in the various areas of the planet he explores We think hair is disgusting or If I shave my mustache, I am eliminating my manhood Yes, they may have some parallels in the real world, but when speculating on humankind 20,000 years in the future, this is the best you could do And then, there s the theoretical point of the novel, where Hari Seldon gains the breakthrough that allows him to turn his theoretical psycho historical projections into a practical application It happens off stage and is delivered in the most uninspiring, anti climactic scene I may have ever read.Look, Asimov was a brilliant man But, for a guy with over 500 books under his belt, I expected a hell of a lot talent with basic characters and dialogue here This was absolutely, without a doubt, terrible, and it s this type of book that s held up as an example of why non SF readers don t read the genre.There s nothing to be found here Move on.


  8. Ana Ana says:

    Finally After all these years I have finished the first book of Foundation What exactly took me so long, I will never know I really enjoyed this work, it s high quality SF, with all the societal elements inserted in it, all the questions about humanity posed and all of the wonders of the possible future bestowed on the reader Brilliant for someone who loves the genre and I most certainly am in love with science fiction, it sparks the imagination in a completely different way than any other literary endeavour I can t wait to read the next books P S Hari Seldon still pisses me off Great book character, annoying little shit.


  9. Daniel Bastian Daniel Bastian says:

    Why, he wondered, did so many people spend their lives not trying to find answers to questions not even thinking of questions to begin with Was there anything exciting in life than seeking answers Note As with other reviews in this series, spoilers to follow After five novels spanning as many centuries, one might have supposed Asimov s stepwise tinkering with his Foundation universe had come to an end The adventures of Golan Trevize, Janov Pelorat, and Bliss concluded in Foundation and Earth 1983 , with a finale as intellectually rewarding as it was thematically resonant Trevize gained the validation he desired for choosing Gaia or proto Galaxia over the Seldon Plan But just five short years later, again at the behest of avid fans and pushy publishers, Asimov picked up the series once , this time in the form of a prequel As its name suggests, Prelude to Foundation 1986 was the first of two prequels setting up the events of the original Foundation novel released in 1951.For most of the series, psychohistory s founder, Hari Seldon, is this enigmatic figure spoken of only in cryptic, quasi spiritual terms, rather like a demigod Little is known about the man other than that he was a mathematical genius whose equations helped shepherd humanity through a series of increasingly existential crises In Prelude Seldon s saintly aura is stripped away as we are introduced to the young, martial arts trained professor laboring to turn his coveted psychohistory into a practical, applied science The first act opens on the planet Trantor, the Empire s capital, as Dr Seldon presents his seminal paper at the Decennial Mathematics Convention In a decision he soon comes to regret, he lays out a theoretical method by which the future can be determined probabilistically The key word here is theoretical , a detail those with a hankering for control over the world order seem uniformly disposed to overlook In Seldon s own words And I went on to show that this would result in the ability to predict future events in a statistical fashion that is, by stating the probability for alternate sets of events, rather than flatly predicting that one set will take place. News of his work spreads like a thunderbolt Emperor Cleon I himself arranges a meeting, in the hope that he can use Seldon s abilities as a means toward self preservation Haunted by the specter of assassination, Cleon is dismayed upon learning that psychohistory is not yet ready for primetime He s not about to risk it falling into the hands of his enemies, however, and orders his right hand man, First Minister Eto Demerzel, to keep close tabs on Seldon s progress Demerzel is a shadowy character whose influence penetrates each of the disparate sectors on Trantor Seldon now has a target on his back Indeed, it seems he is now the most important person in all of the Galaxy, with the powers that be all wishing to profit from a mature psychohistory.Before Seldon can return to his home world of Helicon, he runs into one Chetter Hummin, an intrepid journalist who warns Seldon of the Emperor s intentions Like Cleon, Hummin also seeks a functional psychohistory His aims prove noble than the former s, as he anticipates it being used to divert the Empire from its path of rotting decay Seldon, meanwhile, harbors strong doubts that his mathematics actually possess the potential his benefactors so eagerly seek, but Hummin is able to convince him that his research will be for the good of humanity After dispatching a couple of the Emperor s goons, they flee to a nearby university in Streeling Sector, where Seldon can tend to his work in relative safety There he meets Dors Venabili, a historian and the second protagonist in this outing She agrees to watch over Seldon and assist him with his studies Dors larger role in the narrative is shrouded in mystery and isn t fully explored until the second prequel In this outing she serves as an eloquent sounding board for Seldon s frequent riffs and ruminations, while her strong willed and circumspect presence nicely balance her counterpart s impetuosity and fitful naivete over the course of their journeys Thankfully for Seldon, she is also quite capable of kicking ass when only violent options present themselves.Seldon s stint at the university is short lived, as he is unable to escape the feeling that his every move is being watched by the Emperor and his minions Following a close encounter in which Seldon s reckless actions nearly get him killed, Hummin relocates Seldon and Dors to Mycogen Sector, an underground society on Trantor proper that is believed to possess some of the oldest records in the Galaxy It is thought that by simulating an earlier period of history where the moving parts were decidedly smaller in both scale and in number, this will greatly simplify Seldon s intractable task of mathematizing human societies It wouldn t be an Asimov novel without heaping sexism, and Mycogen serves it in spades As thoroughly patriarchal as it is puritanical, Mycogen is a world in which the subservience of women has been raised to an organizing principle In public, men speak only to men women are never to address men, much less outsiders like Hari and Dors, outside the privacy of their own home Seldon exploits the situation, manipulating one of the women to obtain their sacred book, hoping it may hold the clues he needs to perfect his theory The book appears to be a dead end, but it does lead Seldon to believe that the Mycogenians are protecting one big secret a 20,000 year old robot holed up in their Sacratorium a museum cum temple of sorts dedicated to remembering their past glory on the home world Aurora.The site is off limits to off worlders, so Seldon and Dors don disguises and sneak inside They do in fact find a robot, albeit defunct In the process they are caught by one of the High Elders, an artificer whose machinations had lured the duo into a trap rather than Seldon doing the manipulating, it was he who was beguiled into following a course of action pursuant to Mycogenian interests The Elder had been in communication with the Emperor, and sought to strike a deal in turning Seldon over to Imperial authorities for his sacrilegious breach of custom Seemingly always in the right place at the right time, Hummin intervenes by playing up psychohistory s potential for furthering Mycogen s interests The Elder reluctantly agrees to forget the whole ordeal, reneges on his arrangement with the Emperor, and allows the trio to depart Mycogen for good Hmm Hummin shuttles them off to another of Trantor s sectors known as Dahl Not only is their purpose for going here unexplained, their stay in Dahl is one of the weaker sections of the book Were it not for introducing important characters who play a larger role in the sequel, there would be little to recommend its place in the story Seldon meets a precocious factory worker named Yugo Amaryl whom he promises a job after seeing some scribbled equations Amaryl had been working on in his spare time Amaryl also mentions a wise woman known as Mother Rittah who holds ancient knowledge about Earth the original home of humanity and, Seldon hopes, an ideal case study for psychohistory Seldon and Dors venture into the slummy Billibotton District in search of Rittah, where they are set upon by a swarm of knife wielding miscreants Dors makes quick work of them, an experienced knife fighter herself Shortly thereafter they befriend a homeless, alley smart twelve year old named Raych who leads them to the oracle She reveals to them that the Mycogenians lost world Aurora was actually the robot world that destroyed Earth cue the Robot series Dahl authorities catch wind of their antics and send a pair of constables to question them Threatened with arrest, Seldon and Dors knock out the officers, putting our heroes permanently on the run Fortunately, Raych leads them to safety, when a mysterious soldier shows up on orders to escort Seldon away from Dahl Raych, Dors and Seldon all end up in Wye a sector at Trantor s south pole whose mayor Rashelle has been biding her time as she plots the usurpation of Emperor Cleon s throne Rashelle s plan would allow her to gain full control of Trantor and its various sectors while relinquishing all Imperial command of the isolate planets Seldon, she believes, is the ace in the hole required to carry out her grand act of sedition.Seldon wants no part in this scheme, and for good reason he now knows how to make psychohistory practical Through his diverse cultural experiences in each of the sectors spread across Trantor, he realizes Trantor itself will serve as the perfect model for developing his inchoate science, which can then be generalized to the rest of the twenty five million worlds populating the Galaxy At least, that s the idea But if Rashelle s coup comes to fruition, the Galaxy would be plunged into anarchy, menaced by a neverending series of territorial disputes and sanguinary transfers of power If Seldon is to mature his science and stave off the destruction to come, the Empire must remain at peace.As if on cue, Rashelle s plot is foiled as the soldiers under her command no longer assent to her orders Hummin arrives on the scene and the remaining pieces fall into place We learn that Hummin is none other thanCleon s confidant and advisor Eto Demerzel Moreover, he s not actually a human at all, but the legendary robot named R Daneel Olivaw, whom Trevize and crew meet in the conclusion to Foundation and Earth Further still, Hummin Demerzel Olivaw possesses mentalic powers la the Mule enabling him to subtly manipulate the emotions of others This explains Seldon s drive to perfect psychohistory despite his earlier skepticism, the High Elder s leniency on Mycogen, and Rashelle s failed scheme, among other improbable feats of chance.Having lived the last 20,000 years, Demerzel sees the approaching collapse of the Empire as inevitable and psychohistory as the mechanism by which to minimize the fallout Thus, in accordance with the Zeroth Law A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm he intervenes just enough to nudge events in Seldon s favor.Prequel FeverCritics have been somewhat harsh on this entry, and not without reason, the most fundamental perhaps being that Seldon s quest for a workable psychohistory just isn t all that compelling What made the earlier novels so memorable was exploring the limits of psychohistory and seeing whether the next great challenge was acidic enough to dissolve the Seldon Plan The cerebral acrobatics of navigating the contours of each successive crisis as the Galaxy tests its fate against the provisions of ancient prophecies forms the bread and butter of the Foundation series Sure, Prelude contains all the twists and bombshell reveals characteristic of Asimovian fiction, but the humble beginnings of Seldon s Big Idea fail to reach the epic heights imparted by the settings that have so endeared generations of readers.Delving too much into origins also comes at a cost There s a certain mystique surrounding psychohistory one of the most inventive and successful concepts in all of science fiction that isn t helped by reductive exposition By cutting the enormity of psychohistory down to size, some of the series allure invariably wisps away More problematic is the lackluster execution of the reveal There is no single ground shaking discovery or torrent of insight that sets Seldon on the right path, no Eureka moments that lead him to his statistical laws He just wakes up one morning and says he s worked it out No, literally that s what happens We re supposed to believe his traipsing around Trantor set him on the right course to a solution That s at best unsatisfying, even if it s naive to expect juicy insights into what are ultimately fictional concepts with little chance of being mapped onto reality But as plot devices go, it s pretty tame.What s , the places they visit fail to inspire and feel thrown in merely to bridge Asimov s various fictional projects A lot of space in this book is tied up in external references to the Robot and Empire series in asides that aren t particularly purposeful in and of themselves The robot subplot on Mycogen and the preoccupation with the Aurora Earth connection, for example, make for interesting sync points with the Asimov corpus, but don t do much heavy lifting in progressing the central plot of Prelude Asimov notes in the introduction that unification was not what he had in mind when these stories were conceived, and devoted greater effort to the task later in his career It certainly shows, but surely it s not worth the confusion readers unfamiliar with his other stories are sure to experience.As for plot holes, there might be one relating to Olivaw He has supposedly functioned as Demerzel, counselor to the Imperial throne, for decades, and is frequently referred to as the most influential person in the Galaxy, even so than Cleon himself He has connections with sectors all across Trantor Yet no one knows what he looks like, or that Hummin and Demerzel are the same person Or, rather, is it that Olivaw lulls them into forgetfulness With the mind control mechanic, one can never be sure I had the same issue with Jessica Jones, alas There is also the obligatory caveat about character development As we ve come to accept from this series and from Asimov in general , the individuals on the page serve largely as mouthpieces for Asimov s ever active, idea saturated mind What development we do get is intellectual in nature, as Seldon puzzles out solutions to psychohistory Where such shortcomings might be given a pass in earlier novels, overshadowed as they were by the larger arc built into the narrative, they re visible wrapped inside a confined and chronologically compact story.What is unique about Prelude, however slight a difference it makes in the end, is that Hari Seldon is widely thought to be modeled after Asimov himself Ruthlessly logical, chronically inquisitive and never satisfied he has the final answer in hand, Seldon is the hardened intellectual Asimov embodied throughout his illustrious career The recurring problem, however and Prelude once again fails to break the mold is the supporting cast, who is every bit as effortlessly logical and thorough as Seldon Each of the characters he interacts with, even the oppressed women on Mycogen, go toe to toe with Seldon s brilliance They speak the same way, they reason the same way The criticisms of previous entries thus still stand the dialogue reads largely as an exchange between scholars than as variegated, down to earth human beings with diverse flaws and personalities and cognitive talents to boot It s all the ironic given that social complexity is presented as the critical plot device underwriting psychohistory s evolution from concept to reality.The Alignment ProblemWhat if robots get there first One point raised by Dors is the implications of reducing human behavior to mathematical laws How horrible, said Dors You are picturing human beings as simple mechanical devices Press this button and you will get that twitch Seldon s attempt to bring quadrillions of people under computational control puts Dors ill at ease despite the benevolent impulse behind it But should this give us pause as well After all, whether we will be able to model our actions to this extent is irrelevant, because our future AI companions most certainly will And this dovetails directly with the alignment problem in AI the notion that the goals of superintelligent AI may ultimately prove inconsistent with human well being or the preservation of our species Any dynamic, self modifying superintelligence will eventually understand human behavior at the level of the brain At that point, their intelligence and capabilities will have far surpassed our own and we may come to be viewed as lesser beings, of trivial consequence to the universe The fundamental worry is that sufficiently advanced AI will graduate from mechanical servants to omniscient overlords and treat us the way we treat cattle or insects Perhaps then we would need something like an AI Mule on our side to out manipulate rogue AI The future of AI systems will be nothing if not interesting.Closing Thoughts Prelude to Foundation is the story of how psychohistory was born We learn about the Delphic Hari Seldon who knew he could hold it down in a fight and how he managed to see the future in terms of probabilities Through expository jaunts on Trantor, he meets a range of characters who cause him to see his project in a different light and who will play pivotal roles in the events to come Many interactions seem to exist for the sole purpose of tying in his Robot and Empire series While some may find these tangents distracting, they do add texture to Asimov s voluminous universe and neither substantially improve nor detract from Seldon s odyssey I enjoyed the intellectual jawing that permeates all of the Foundation novels, even if Prelude s lesser scope made me nostalgic for the high stakes, space traversing amplitude of the earlier works Whether we ultimately needed an origin story is left for the reader to decide As for myself, it s the stories that emerge once Seldon s science is already off the ground that keep me coming back for .Note This review is republished from my official website Click through for additional footnotes and imagery.


  10. Maanasa Maanasa says:

    I did the unthinkable when it comes to reading the Foundation series and started with Prelude I recently also finished Forward the Foundation and have started reading Foundation I read the book slowly during my commute, and I found myself getting progressively annoyed with how quickly I got to and from work I felt like the book went 0 60 in no time as it immediately set a brisk pace that it would follow for the rest of the book I found that the flight of Hari Seldon was both exciting and full of intrigue I enjoyed reading about the dystopian societies of Mycogen and Dahl through Hari Seldon s fairly unbiased and observant PoV The twists towards the end were exciting and while I partly expected one of them, it still didn t take away from the oh my goodness nature of the moment.A small drawback I felt like the Seldon character the protagonist lacked personality Given that he was the narrator, I appreciated the mostly objective recounting of events through the clear lens of Seldon s mind, but somehow he seemed a little too bland and it was difficult for me to root for or develop affection for the character That s just a personal quibble though, and I would still wholeheartedly recommend this book.As far as starting the series with Prelude is concerned, only time will tell if I end up feeling robbed by the time I finish the original series I will be sure to come back and update my review with respect to this issue once I am done with the series.