Series: Foundation 1
Reviewed date: 2018 Mar 1
I was afraid that Foundation wouldn't hold up. I hadn't read it since the mid-1990s. It held up. It wasn't the greatest book--mostly it suffers from being a collection of stories rather than a single story--but it held my attention. Even better, the story captured my interest enough that I am eager to read the sequels.
I found the emphasis on nuclear power as a bellweather for the health of a society to be fascinating. The Foundation's continued survival, at least in the early centuries, depended on its continued understanding of nuclear power at a time when the Galactic Empire and its various fractured kingdoms were losing this core technology. It says a lot about the 1940s that Asimov chose that as the technology whose loss demonstrates the decline and fall of a civilization.
Hari Seldon manipulates the Galactic Empire into banishing his Foundation to the exact place he wants: the planet Terminus, at the edge of the galaxy.
Originally published as "Foundation"
The Foundation is under threat of invasion from the Four Kingdoms, because the Foundation still possesses the knowledge of nuclear power. Salvor Hardin, mayor of Terminus, plays the Four Kingdoms against each other to ensure the Foundation's independence.
Originally published as "Bridle and Saddle"
The Foundation has been buying its independence by providing nuclear power to its neighboring kingdoms. The "priests" of the new religion of Scientism study on Terminus, then take their knowledge of holy technology to the Four Kingdoms.
Now, though, the Kingdom of Anacreon has grown powerful enough to threaten an invasion of Terminus. Salvor Hardin stops the plan in its tracks with the power of religion: the priests withhold their blessing from Anacreon, and the warmongering rulers of Anacreon are deposed in short order.
Originally published as "The Wedge"
Askone is a holdout that refuses to accept the Foundation's offer of nuclear technology, for fear that accepting the Foundation's science will place Askone at the mercy of the Foundation's religion of Scientist. A couple of Traders manage to break the embargo, introduce Foundation technology and religion, and bring Askone under Foundation aegis.
The Merchant Princes
Originally published as "The Big and the Little"
Scientism has outlived its usefulness, and the Foundation realizes it can maintain its influence and power through commerce alone, without the need for the priests of Scientism.