Here’s three reviews in one, because I had not started writing these reviews when I started the trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation.
Everyone who likes Asimov absolutely loves these, and I am with them for the first book, and the first half of the second. The foundation trilogy is probably one of the most-read collections of sci-fi out there, and it’s easy to see why. They are quick reads, and even the parts I didn’t enjoy so much go by pretty fast.
The gist of it is that there’s a brilliant ‘psychohistorian’, one Mr. Seldon, who has developed a branch of mental mathematics that predicts the direction of civilization after reaching a planet-sized scale. He forsees the crumbling of the current empire and creates a Foundation to speed humanity’s return to greatness–two, actually, but read the books for the details.
A big part of the concept–and the part that I liked–is that the people in the Foundation can’t know whats going on. If they did, they’d mess the whole thing up. So there’s a second foundation, scrambling all the time, trying to keep them in line without revealing their existence. It’s like central banking, but with humanity instead of money. While the hapless subjects/heros of the Foundation continually attempt to make the plan come to fruition, it’s invariably some completely sideways path that no one saw coming that actually is the path. The only part of the books I didn’t enjoy is when a particular individual is so influential it plays havoc with the psychohistorical calculations. As this is about a third of the trilogy, I was disappointed there.
But no big time loss, and it was fun. The somewhat episodic nature of the books would make them great fodder for some place where you’re continually finding yourself waiting for 10 minutes at a time; I read 1/3 of one waiting in line at the ultra-efficient Spanish post office.