Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What I'm reading right now

I love this book! It's so well written that it's a breeze to read, even though it deals with imperial politics on a galactic scale. This is probably the fourth time I've read it, and, though I'm only seventy-nine pages in, I'm enjoying it as much as ever.

If you are unfamiliar with the Foundation books, they are a series of novels and short stories written by Isaac Asimov that tell the story the Galactic Empire on a broad timescale. Though there are several independent stories in the series, I am particularly fond of the original Foundation trilogy, which includes Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation.

To give you a little background on what Foundation is about, I will quote liberally from the back cover blurb for this edition:
For twelve thousand years the Galactic Empire had ruled supreme. Now it was dying. But only Hari Seldon, creator of the revolutionary science of psychohistory, could see into the future--a dark age of ignorance, barbarism, and warfare that would last thirty thousand years. To preserve knowledge and mankind, Seldon gathered the best minds in the Empire--both scientists and scholars--and brought them to a bleak planet at the edge of the Galaxy to serve as a beacon of hope for future generations. He called his sanctuary the Foundation.
Weighty stuff, but, as I said above, it's an easy read. Asimov is a great writer of dialogue, and he even works in wonderful portrayals of facial expressions as part of the dialogue. And, to flesh out that dialogue, he draws physical descriptions of his characters that you can actually see in your head.

One of the things I like to do when I read a work of fiction is to cast the book. As I read the dialogue, I try to picture actual actors in the roles, and it's easier to do this when the author has created compelling characters, as Asimov has done. Already I've cast Adrien Brody as Dr. Lewis Pirenne, the lead scientist and Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Foundation, and I've picked Ron Perlman to fill the role of Salvor Hardin, the Mayor of Terminus City. Years ago when I last read this book I had others in mind for these characters, but the beauty of re-reading it is also recasting the parts to see how the story develops with the new actors in place. As already mentioned, Asimov's writing makes this easy.

If you've never read Foundation, I highly recommend it, even if you are not a big fan of science fiction. It's not long, it's not difficult, and it doesn't bog you down in the science aspect of the fiction. It's fun. And then read the sequel, Foundation and Empire, which has one of the most interesting characters in all the worlds of sci-fi: the Mule.

I can't wait.

Review of Foundation and Empire here.
Review of Second Foundation here.


AlanDP said...

I read the original trilogy in high school, the fourth book a few years later. Never read any of the associated short stories.

I do remember enjoying the trilogy quite a lot, but haven't re-read it since. So who do you cast for The Mule? My mental image was of someone who was kind of scrawny and nerdy-looking yet somehow extremely charismatic.

Albatross said...

If I remember correctly The Mule was supposed to be ugly. Charismatic, but not pleasant to look at. My first thought is Willem Dafoe, but he's a bit imposing to play the clown disguise. Perhaps Steve Buscemi, but maybe that particular kind of ugly is a bit over the top.

I'll have to give it some thought, because I don't remember who I considered the last time I read the trilogy.

AlanDP said...

I got it: Emo Phillips.

Albatross said...

You know, you just might be on to something there.