Foundation by Isaac Asimov: A Masterpiece of Science Fiction that You Can Read for Free in EPUB Format
Foundation by Isaac Asimov: A Classic Science Fiction Novel
If you are a fan of science fiction, you have probably heard of Foundation, a novel by Isaac Asimov that is widely regarded as one of the best works in the genre. Foundation is the first book in a series of seven novels that span thousands of years of human history in a galaxy where humans have colonized countless planets and formed a vast Galactic Empire.
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But what is Foundation about? Why is it considered a classic science fiction novel? And how can you read it for free? In this article, we will answer these questions and more, as we explore the plot, the themes, and the legacy of Foundation by Isaac Asimov.
The Plot of Foundation
Foundation is not a conventional novel with a single plot and a set of characters. Rather, it is a collection of five interrelated stories that cover different periods and events in the history of the Foundation, a scientific institution that was established by Hari Seldon, a genius mathematician and psychologist who invented psychohistory, a new field of science that can predict the future behavior of large groups of people.
The stories are set in different locations and times, but they all share a common theme: the decline and fall of the Galactic Empire, and the rise of the Foundation as a new force in the galaxy. Here is a brief summary of each story:
This story is original to the 1951 book version and serves as a prologue to the rest of the series. It takes place in 12,067 G.E. (Galactic Era), when the Galactic Empire is still powerful but slowly decaying. Hari Seldon, who lives on Trantor, the capital planet of the Empire, has discovered through psychohistory that the Empire will collapse in 300 years, followed by 30,000 years of barbarism and chaos. He also has devised a plan to reduce this dark age to only 1,000 years by creating two Foundations at opposite ends of the galaxy, where he will gather the best scientists and scholars to preserve and advance human knowledge and culture.
However, his plan is opposed by the Commission of Public Safety, the de facto rulers of the Empire, who see him as a threat to their power and stability. They arrest him and put him on trial for treason. Seldon defends himself by revealing his predictions and his plan to the public, hoping to gain their support and sympathy. He also reveals that he has already established one Foundation on Terminus, a remote planet on the edge of the galaxy. He convinces the Commission to let him go there with his followers, instead of executing him or exiling him to another planet.
This story was first published in 1942 under the title \"Foundation\". It takes place in 50 F.E. (Foundation Era), 50 years after Seldon's death. The Foundation on Terminus has been working on compiling an Encyclopedia Galactica, a comprehensive record of all human knowledge, as instructed by Seldon. However, they face a problem: they are surrounded by four neighboring kingdoms that have broken away from the Empire and are constantly at war with each other. One of them, Anacreon, has sent an envoy to Terminus, demanding tribute and threatening invasion.
The leaders of the Foundation, who are mostly encyclopedists, are reluctant to resist or negotiate with Anacreon, fearing that they will lose their scientific mission and their independence. However, a young politician named Salvor Hardin, who is the mayor of Terminus City, has a different idea. He believes that the Foundation has a hidden purpose that Seldon did not reveal to them, and that they should use their superior technology and knowledge to manipulate and control the neighboring kingdoms. He also suspects that Seldon left behind a message for them in a secret vault, where he recorded his predictions and instructions for the future of the Foundation.
Hardin stages a coup and takes over the Foundation, replacing the encyclopedists with his own supporters. He also refuses to pay tribute to Anacreon, and instead sends them a gift: a nuclear power plant that can provide them with energy and weapons. However, he also installs a device that can remotely disable the plant if Anacreon tries to use it against the Foundation. He then reveals to the envoy of Anacreon that the Foundation has a religion based on science, and that they are willing to share their knowledge and technology with Anacreon, as long as they respect their authority and worship their scientists as priests.
The envoy is impressed by Hardin's offer and agrees to accept it. He also invites Hardin to visit Anacreon and meet with its king. Hardin accepts the invitation, hoping to secure an alliance with Anacreon. However, he soon discovers that he has been betrayed by one of his own councilors, who has conspired with the king of Anacreon to capture him and force him to reveal the secrets of the Foundation. Hardin manages to escape with the help of his loyal agents, and returns to Terminus. There, he opens the vault and finds Seldon's message, which confirms his suspicions: the Encyclopedia Galactica was a hoax, and the real purpose of the Foundation was to create a new civilization based on science and technology.
This story was first published in 1942 under the title \"Bridle and Saddle\". It takes place in 80 F.E., 30 years after the previous story. The Foundation has expanded its influence over several neighboring kingdoms, using its religion of science as a tool of diplomacy and domination. However, they face a new challenge: the Empire, which has been declining but still exists, has sent a general named Bel Riose to conquer the periphery of the galaxy, where the Foundation is located.
Bel Riose is a brilliant and ambitious commander who admires the glory of the old Empire and wants to restore it. He attacks several planets allied with the Foundation, hoping to lure them into a trap. He also captures one of the Foundation's traders, who are independent merchants who travel across the galaxy and trade goods and technology with other planets. The trader is named Lathan Devers, and he has a partner named Ducem Barr, who is a descendant of one of Seldon's original followers.
Devers and Barr manage to escape from Riose's custody and make their way to Trantor, where they hope to find evidence that Riose is acting against the Emperor's orders and expose him as a traitor. They discover that Riose is indeed plotting to overthrow the Emperor, but they also learn that the Emperor is aware of his scheme and has sent an agent to assassinate him.
Meanwhile, on Terminus, Salvor Hardin is still the mayor of the Foundation, but he faces opposition from a group of young politicians who accuse him of being too passive and cautious in dealing with Riose. They want to use their military force and their nuclear weapons to fight back against Riose and defend their planets. Hardin argues that they should wait for Seldon's next message, which is due soon, and trust his plan.
Hardin wins the argument by revealing that he has secretly contacted Riose's assassin and convinced him to spare Riose's life, in exchange for information about the Foundation's religion. Hardin explains that he did this because he believes that Riose is not a real threat to the Foundation, but rather a tool of Seldon's psychohistory. He says that Seldon predicted that there would be a conflict between the Empire and the Foundation at this point in history, and that it would result in the weakening of both sides and the strengthening of the Foundation.
Hardin's prediction is confirmed by Seldon's message, which appears in the vault shortly after. Seldon congratulates the Foundation for surviving the first crisis in its history, which he calls \"the Encyclopedists versus Anacreon\". He also explains that there will be more crises in the future, each one more difficult than the previous story. Seldon explains that there will be more crises in the future, each one more difficult than the previous one, and that the Foundation will have to overcome them by using its scientific and political skills. The Traders
This story was first published in 1944 under the title \"The Wedge\". It takes place in 135 F.E., 55 years after the previous story. The Foundation has become a powerful commercial empire, using its traders as agents of expansion and influence. One of these traders is Limmar Ponyets, who is sent to Askone, a planet that is hostile to the Foundation and its technology. Ponyets is tasked with rescuing another trader, Eskel Gorov, who has been arrested by the Askonian authorities for smuggling nuclear gadgets.
Ponyets manages to bribe his way into the prison where Gorov is held, and meets with him. He learns that Gorov was trying to sell a nuclear device to a young councilman named Pherl, who is the grandson of the Grand Master of Askone, the ruler of the planet. Ponyets decides to use this information to his advantage, and contacts Pherl, offering him a deal: he will give him a nuclear device that can transmute iron into gold, in exchange for Gorov's freedom and a large amount of gold.
Pherl is tempted by Ponyets' offer, but he is also afraid of violating the taboo against nuclear technology that his grandfather has imposed on Askone. He agrees to test the device, but only if Ponyets can prove that it is not dangerous or harmful. Ponyets agrees, and demonstrates the device to Pherl, using a sample of iron ore that Pherl provides. However, Ponyets secretly uses a trick to make the device work: he has hidden a small amount of gold dust in his fingernails, which he sprinkles on the ore before activating the device. The device then fuses the gold dust with the iron ore, creating an illusion of transmutation.
Pherl is amazed by the result, and agrees to buy the device from Ponyets. He also releases Gorov from prison, and pays Ponyets a large sum of gold. However, he soon discovers that he has been cheated: the device does not work on any other ore than the one that Ponyets used for the demonstration. He realizes that Ponyets has tricked him, and tries to arrest him and Gorov. However, Ponyets and Gorov manage to escape with their spaceship, leaving Pherl with a useless gadget and a lot of anger.
The Merchant Princes
This story was first published in 1944 under the title \"The Big and the Little\". It takes place in 155 F.E., 20 years after the previous story. The Foundation has become even more powerful and prosperous, thanks to its trade network and its religion of science. However, they face a new enemy: the Mule, a mysterious warlord who has conquered several planets in the galaxy with his army of mutants. The Mule has a special ability: he can manipulate people's emotions with his mind, making them loyal to him or fearful of him.
The Mule launches an attack on the Foundation's territory, hoping to capture its secrets and technology. He targets one of its most important planets: Haven II, where Hober Mallow, a former trader and now mayor of the Foundation, lives. Mallow is a shrewd and pragmatic leader who has abandoned the religion of science and focused on commerce and politics. He has also established a secret intelligence network that monitors the activities of the Mule and his allies.
Mallow receives a visit from an old friend and rival: Jorane Sutt, who is now an envoy of Korell, a planet that has allied itself with the Mule. Sutt brings with him an offer from Korell: they will stop their war with the Foundation if Mallow agrees to surrender Haven II to them. Mallow refuses, knowing that it is a trap. He also reveals that he knows Sutt's true identity: he is not an envoy of Korell, but an agent of the Mule.
Mallow then exposes Sutt's plan: he has brought with him a nuclear bomb disguised as a personal shield generator, which he intends to detonate in Mallow's office, killing him and destroying Haven II's defenses. However, Mallow has anticipated this move, and has replaced Sutt's bomb with a harmless device. He then arrests Sutt and his accomplices, and prepares to defend Haven II from the Mule's attack.
Meanwhile, on another planet, a young woman named Bayta Darell and her husband Toran Darell, who are descendants of Hari Seldon's original followers, are on a mission to find the Second Foundation, which Seldon had mentioned in his messages. They believe that the Second Foundation is the only hope to stop the Mule and save the Foundation. They are accompanied by a mysterious old man named Ebling Mis, who claims to be a scholar and a historian, and a young clown named Magnifico, who they rescued from the Mule's clutches.
They discover that the Second Foundation is located on Trantor, the former capital of the Empire, which is now a ruined and abandoned planet. They travel there, hoping to find clues and allies. However, they soon realize that they are in danger: Ebling Mis is actually under the influence of the Mule, who has sent him to find the Second Foundation and destroy it. The Mule has also followed them to Trantor, disguised as Magnifico, who is actually his alter ego.
The Mule reveals his true identity to Bayta and Toran, and tries to persuade them to join him. He also tries to use his emotional power on them, but he fails: Bayta and Toran have been immunized by a device that they received from an unknown benefactor. The device also contains a message from Hari Seldon, who tells them that they have reached the Second Foundation, which is not a physical place, but a group of people who have mastered psychohistory and can manipulate the minds of others.
The message also tells them that they have to stop Ebling Mis from revealing the location of the Second Foundation to the Mule, by any means necessary. Bayta realizes that there is only one way to do that: she shoots Ebling Mis with a blaster, killing him before he can speak. The Mule is shocked and enraged by this act, and realizes that he has been outsmarted by the Second Foundation. He decides to retreat and abandon his quest for the Second Foundation, leaving Bayta and Toran alone on Trantor.
The Themes of Foundation
Foundation is a novel that explores many themes and ideas that are relevant to science fiction and human history. Some of the main themes are:
The Fall and Rise of Civilizations
One of the central themes of Foundation is the cyclical nature of civilizations: how they rise and fall over time, and how they can be influenced by external and internal factors. Asimov was inspired by Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which he read as a teenager. He wanted to create a parallel between the Roman Empire and the Galactic Empire, and show how both of them collapsed due to corruption, decadence, stagnation, and external threats.
However, Asimov also wanted to show how civilizations can be reborn after a period of decline, and how they can be guided by visionary individuals or groups who have a plan for the future. He created Hari Seldon as a character who foresaw the fall of the Galactic Empire and devised a way to reduce its impact by creating the Foundation and the Second Foundation. He also created psychohistory as a science that can predict and influence the course of history by using mathematics and psychology.
Asimov's view of history is not deterministic or fatalistic: he does not believe that everything is predetermined or inevitable. He acknowledges that there are unpredictable factors and events that can alter or disrupt the course of history, such as the Mule's appearance. However, he also believes that there are patterns and trends that can be observed and manipulated by those who have the knowledge and the will to do so. He shows how the Foundation and the Second Foundation use their scientific and mental skills to overcome their enemies and crises, and how they shape history according to Seldon's plan.
The Role of Science and Religion
Another theme of Foundation is the role of science and religion in human society: how they can be used for good or evil, how they can coexist or conflict with each other, how they can change over time. Asimov was an atheist and a rationalist who valued science as a source of knowledge and progress. He created the Foundation as an institution that preserves and advances human civilization through science and technology.
However, Asimov also recognized that science alone is not enough to maintain order and stability in a chaotic galaxy. He showed how the Foundation used religion as a tool of diplomacy and domination over its neighbors, who were ignorant and superstitious. He also showed how religion can be corrupted by power and greed, and how it can be challenged by reason and logic. He also showed how religion can evolve over time, and how it can be replaced by a new faith or ideology. The Power of Psychohistory
A third theme of Foundation is the power of psychohistory: how it can be used to predict and influence the future, how it can be challenged by unforeseen factors, how it can be preserved and transmitted by different generations. Asimov created psychohistory as a fictional science that combines mathematics and psychology to calculate the probabilities of future events based on the past behavior of large groups of people.
Asimov was fascinated by the idea of applying scientific methods to history and sociology, and he wanted to explore the implications and limitations of such a science. He showed how psychohistory can be used as a tool for planning and guiding human civilization, as well as a weapon for manipulating and controlling human emotions. He also showed how psychohistory can be threatened by random or chaotic factors, such as the Mule's mutation or the Second Foundation's intervention. He also showed how psychohistory can be preserved and transmitted by different generations, who have different roles and responsibilities in Seldon's plan.
Foundation by Isaac Asimov is a classic science fiction novel that tells the story of the fall and rise of a galactic civilization over thousands of years. It is a novel that explores many themes and ideas that are relevant to science fiction and human history, such as the cyclical nature of civilizations, the role of science and religion, and the power of psychohistory.
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