For nearly fifty years, Isaac Asimov thrilled millions of readers with his internaitonally bestselling Foundation Series, a spell-binding tale of the future that spans hundreds of years and dozens of worlds. Here, now, is Forward the Foundation, the seventh and final volume in the series. Completed just before his death, it is the Grand Master’s last gift to his legions of admirers.
Here, at last, is the story Asimov fans have been waiting for, an exciting tale of danger, intrigue, and suspense that chronicles the second half of hero Hari Seldon’s life as he struggles to perfect his revolutionary Theory of Psychohistory and establish the means by which the survival of humanity will be ensured: Foundation. For, as Seldon and his loyal band of followers know, the mighty Galactic Empire is crumbling, and its inevitable destruction will wreak havoc Galaxy-wide…
A resounding tour de force, Forward the Foundation brings full circle Asimov’s renowned Foundation epic. It is the crowning achievement of a great writer’s life, and a stunning testament to the creative genius of Isaac Asimov.
Chronologically, Forward the Foundation covers the period between Prelude to Foundation and Foundation. It details Hari Seldon’s struggles to create psychohistory as a science and establish the Foundation.
Structurally, Forward the Foundation reverts to the form of the earlier Foundation books. Rather than being a single long novel, Forward the Foundation is a series of four novellas with a brief epilogue. (The book was originally intended to be five novellas, but Asimov’s ill-health the last few years of his life prevented the fifth from getting beyond the outline stage.) The individual novellas are reasonably self-contained, and three of the four were, in fact, published in Asimov’s Science Fiction prior to the publication of Forward the Foundation. Each novella is named for the individual who leaves Seldon’s life in the course of the story.
The individual stories vary in quality and are generally not Asimov’s best. The first, “Eto Demerzel,” depends on resolving the basic conflict via the plot of the earlier (and better) story “Evidence.” As a solution to the story’s fundamental problem, the ploy is unconvincing, and in almost every regard, the comparisons with “Evidence” (which anyone familiar with “Evidence” cannot help but make) are all to the earlier story’s favor. The third section, “Dors Venabili,” turns on an elaborate (and largely unbelievable) word-play.
Even harder is reconciling parts of the book with the information in the earlier books, Foundation in particular. Foundation implies that Seldon and his work were relatively unknown and that Seldon was never married. Forward the Foundation portrays Seldon as having served ten years as the Emperor’s First Minister, and as being married to Dors (she is variously called his wife and his consort).
Nor is Asimov’s overall writing quite up to par; the book does not flow quite as well as earlier books.
Still, I would have to rate this as one of the better books in the Foundation series, largely because of the insights it gives into Asimov himself and his life. The book is suffused by a painful spirit of decay, as Seldon recognizes that the Empire is falling apart around him, struggles with how to save it, and faces defeat at every hand. This is parallel to what was happening to Asimov himself: his end was near, life was getting harder and harder, and he was helpless to stop it.
More than that, the key players are clearly derived from Asimov’s own family—or, more accurately, Seldon’s feelings for them are derived from Asimov’s for his family members. Dors is Janet, Wanda is Robyn, and, above all, Seldon is Asimov himself. The pathos and poignancy we feel as these people leave Seldon’s life is enhanced, then, by the knowledge that Asimov is looking forward to having to say good-bye to Janet and Robyn at the least, and the last fond look that Seldon gives his life’s work at the end of the book is really Asimov’s last fond look over his life work. The ending is nothing short of beautiful.
This window into Asimov’s soul alone makes this one of the truly outstanding books in the Foundation series and, indeed, one of the more important books in all of Asimov’s fiction.