Book Review: Foundation by Isaac Asimov - The Fantasy Review

Book Review: Foundation by Isaac Asimov

The Fantasy Review‘s review of Foundation by Isaac Asimov, book one in the Foundation trilogy.


With Hari Seldon’s psychohistory, the Foundation sets up on Terminus but faces enemies both from within and outside.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov is brilliant. If you are looking for a plot that is simple, character-driven, and takes place over a short period of time, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

The worldbuilding is huge in scale and because of this the characters are almost irrelevant compared to the larger forces at work. I say almost, because there are individuals who, at times, take control of their own future or present – psychohistory be damned!

In a lot of book reviews, I can talk about the characters a lot but because of the genre and the style, there isn’t much to talk about! Despite that, the main characters we meet are all quite individual and – for the most part – are interesting to follow.

Despite the sheer scale of this science fiction book, it’s definitely only an introduction for things to come. We see the fall of an Empire and the foundations of a new one brewing. Reading this book is like watching history come to life and it’s a joy to read.


In this section, I briefly go through each part of Foundation which I’ve used as subtitles for the book review.

“The Psychohistorians”

In the first part of Foundation we are introduced to Hari Seldon who has developed psychohistory. We see him tried for treason and then allowed to leave for Terminus where – he tells Gaal Dornick – the first Foundation will be established. The second foundation is also introduced in this part which I am excited to learn more about.

I really enjoyed this part as it introduced the “what if?” element immediately. I was intrigued by this scientific method of essentially telling the future. Yes, there were a lot of questions to be answered, but that’s half the fun!

Hari Seldon was a strong character – considering the genre and the style, this was a surprise – and this part was actually quite character driven.

“The Encyclopedists”

This is a very politically driven part of Foundation and I loved it. Terminus is surrounded by ‘The Four Kingdoms’ who want to set up a military base there, and the Board of Trustees are ruling over Terminus who are focused only on the creation of the Encyclopedia Galactica.

We follow Salvor Hardin, who seems to be only a face to the government who is really in charge behind the scenes, but he strongly disagrees with them and plans a coup.

They manage to stop the Kingdom of Anacreon from establishing a military base, which is a really fun plotline of this part, and at the end of the part we see a holographic Hari Seldon in the Time Vault.

He reveals that the Encylopedia Galactica was a ruse to keep the Empire from stopping the colony’s creation and that their true purpose is to begin the Second Galactic Empire.

I wasn’t expecting so much mystery in this book! I also wasn’t expecting to become to attached to the main characters. First, Hari Seldon was brilliant to follow, and in this part I found myself wanting an entire book with Salvor Hardin!

“The Mayors”

I was glad to have another part with Salvor Hardin, but quite a few things have changed in that short period of time. Scientism is a new religion which Terminus used to assert control over the people and as propaganda in the Four Kingdoms.

I found that it made for a morally grey character – in both Seldon and Hardin – as despite working towards an incredibly large goal, they don’t think about how their actions might affect the people in the ‘present’ day.

This part was fast-paced and had a few twists I didn’t see coming.

“The Traders”

This was an interesting part as it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the plot. We are introduced yet again to new character and also a new world.

It was great to see more of the world (universe), but I found myself wanting it to be over and to continue on with the main plot!

“The Merchant Princes”

As an ending to Foundation, this part had a lot going on! It was great to see the shift from religious control to commercial control begin.

Watching a civilization start from the beginning and then to flick forward in time quickly is something you rarely get to watch in books (unless you read a fantasy history/lore book like Fire and Blood or The Silmarillion!).

The focus of the main character also changes. Mallow decides to focus on the present and leave the future to sort itself out which I found refreshing after Seldon and Hardin’s desire only to aim for the future goal.

It makes me wonder if this will affect Seldon’s psycohistorical predictions.

This review of Foundation by Isaac Asimov is an updated version of one of my previous reviews. Many old reviews are receiving this treatment over the coming months.

Related to Our Review of Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Owner and Editor of The Fantasy Review. Loves all fantasy and science fiction books, graphic novels, TV and Films. Having completed a BA and MA in English Literature and Creative writing, they would like to go on to do a PhD. Favourite authors are Trudi Canavan, Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson.

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