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review 2018-02-28 03:19
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2)
Foundation And Empire - Isaac Asimov

The Foundation created by Hari Seldon has come through three crises and several social changes, but now it must face off against forces of Empire.  Foundation and Empire, the second book of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, follows how the Foundation and its citizen responded to threats from Empire—one it’s decaying predecessor and one from a budding conqueror.


Unlike like Foundation with its several short stories, Asimov’s second book featured two novellas entitled “The General” and “The Mule”.  The first followed the Imperial war against the Foundation led by the titular general Bel Riose who looked to restore the rule of the Empire, but was stopped short by the Emperor who believed him to be using the war to build up himself as a usurper.  The fallout of the war leads the Foundation citizenry to believe during its war with the warlord “The Mule” that eventually something will happen for the Foundation to win.  But the Foundation falls to the Mule’s forces as its leadership learns that its next crisis was to be civil war.  A small ship filled with Foundation survivors makes its way towards the old Imperial capital to find a way to stop the Mule and find that the Second Foundation might be the key.


Although some might believe the two novellas a better format than the several short stories of the first book, I am of a different opinion.  The longer length of the stories unfortunately exposed Asimov’s characters as very flat and his writing somewhat formulaic, especially when it came to the identity of “The Mule”.  Yet I have to admit that of the two stories, “The General” was the best because it only took up a third of the book thus protecting the characters from being over exposed.  “The Mule” became tedious as the reveal of titular character took its sweet time, even as Asimov attempted to show the decay of the Galactic civilization.


While Foundation and Empire was not as good as the first book of the trilogy, there are still some nice passages and ideas that Asimov has written.  Though I was intrigued to find out more about the Second Foundation after finishing the book, it was a long slog to get to that point.

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review 2018-02-12 13:11
Nightfall by Isaac Asimov & Robert Silverberg
Nightfall - Isaac Asimov,Robert Silverberg

From the blurb:

"Imagine living on a planet with six suns that never experiences Darkness. Imagine never having seen the Stars. Then, one by one your suns start to set, gradually leading you into Darkness for the first time ever. Image the terror of such a Nightfall.

Scientists on the planet Kalgash discover that an eclipse - an event that occurs only every 2049 years - is imminent, and that a society unfamiliar with Darkness will be plunged into madness and chaos. They realize that their civilization will end, for the people of Kalgash have a proven fear of Darkness, but they are unable to predict the insanity and destruction that will accompany the awesome splendor of Nightfall."

Originally published in 1970, this book has a pulp feel to it.  This story explores the events before, during and after a total eclipse and resulting complete darkness on a planet with six suns and perpetual light.  The doomsday/apocalypse concept is interesting but the execution falls a bit flat - the characters are a bit two dimensional and some events and their timing are just too convenient.  However, the book is still enjoyable and would make a nice addition to the shelf of an apocalypse fan.


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review 2018-01-30 00:03
Foundation (Foundation #1)
Foundation (Book 1) - Isaac Asimov

An Empire has begun to decline and one man had produced a plan to shorten the resulting Dark Age and found a Second Empire.  Isaac Asimov based his “Hugo Best All-Time Series” on this premise, one man setting up a Foundation for the future of mankind but not telling his successors about how to bring the plan to fruition.


Foundation is not one story, but several connected together because of the grand plan by Hari Seldon who mathematically deduced the decline of the Galactic Empire and its future fall then came up with a plan to reduce the resulting Dark Age to only a 1000 years.  Three of the five stories featured the two standout characters of the volume:  Salvor Hardin, the point-of-view character in “The Encyclopedists” and “The Mayors”, and Hober Mallow, the point-of-view character of “The Merchant Princes”.  It is through these two characters the reader gets an understanding of the political and social situations going on as the Empire declines and the Seldon’s Foundation politically evolve to meet the conditions known as Seldon Crisis.


Although Foundation is an interconnected collection of short stories, combined they create a history of a far off future of a declining Empire and an outpost meant to build up a future Second Empire for the betterment of all men.  While some might think space science fiction is all lasers and space battles, Isaac Asimov showed that it could be political, religious, and economic forces on a large scale used by individuals to pave the way for a better future.  It is because of this that many consider this a classic and frankly I can’t disagree.

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review 2017-12-14 02:24
In one human's lifetime
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

Well, that ended on an eerie note. And dovetails nicely into Foundation I guess (I'm always telling myself I have to read it, and balk at the commitment). Also, extra points for... is it irony? I mean, given who (and what) are the ones having this "laying it out and guessing" chat, and who each blame, and which is in favor? O maybe it is "discomfiting" the word I'm wanting.


This is an excellent collection that delves into different aspects on the overarching theme of Robot/human interaction, and goes for a variety of moods too. The thread is Susan Calvin on her interview, who, in her own words


saw it from the beginning, when the poor robots couldn’t speak, to the end


(And boy, do I have feelings about that one! My great-grandma was born in 1920, saw the advent of radio, cars and cinema into sleepy little towns, TV, PC's, cell-phones, and by the time she died in 2010, chatted on Skype with her daughter)


I had read many of the stories before, but the arrangement lends them extra weight with it's overarching view. As for each, there is for every taste, from the heartwarming, and the harrowing, often times ridiculous, hilarious (Powell and Donovan kept reminding me of my programmer brother whenever he's at testing stage), to the heartbreaking, disturbing and, like I started, discomfiting.

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text 2017-12-14 01:06
Reading progress update: I've read 230 out of 256 pages.
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

Ching Hso-lin’s great-grandfather had been killed in the Japanese invasion of the old Chinese Republic, and there had been no one besides his dutiful children to mourn his loss or even to know he was lost. Ching Hso-lin’s grandfather had survived the civil war of the late forties, but there had been no one besides his dutiful children to know or care of that.

And yet Ching Hso-lin was a Regional Vice-Co-ordinator, with the economic welfare of half the people of Earth in his care.

Perhaps it was with the thought of all that in mind, that Ching had two maps as the only ornaments on the wall of his office. One was an old hand-drawn affair tracing out an acre or two of land, and marked with the now outmoded pictographs of old China. A little creek trickled aslant the faded markings and there were the delicate pictorial indications of lowly huts, in one of which Ching’s grandfather had been born.

The other map was a huge one, sharply delineated, with all markings in neat Cyrillic characters. The red boundary that marked the Eastern Region swept within its grand confines all that had once been China, India, Burma, Indo-China, and Indonesia. On it, within the old province of Szechuan, so light and gentle that none could see it, was the little mark placed there by Ching which indicated the location of his ancestral farm.


A tiny dot that none can see... I think this here is why I love Asimov so much: make it about robots, take it as far into the futuristic sci-fi territory as you wish or can, and it'll still be about being human.

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