A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The origins of genius


Isaac Asimov’s Prelude to Foundation, the first prequel to the author’s classic Foundation Trilogy, is a modest but enjoyable science-fiction novel, showing the humble beginnings of Hari Seldon, the legendary scientist of the original trilogy.  The novel will probably resonate more if you’re already familiar with the trilogy, as you’ll likely get more of a kick out of the young, slightly vain, slightly scatterbrained Seldon seen here if you’re well versed on his later accomplishments and eventual revered status.

But there are some compelling ideas here for both Foundation newcomers and longtime fans of the original books, often presented in fun ways.  In particular, the novel examines the idea of personal cluelessness about one’s genius, and how it sometimes takes others to fill a person in about one's own potential.  Here, Hari is presented as someone who thinks he’s just a modest mathematician, with maybe a few creative ideas worthy of writing an esoteric paper on, but nothing more.  But once Hari delivers his paper at a conference, the most powerful six or seven forces in the universal hierarchy immediately wrestle and compete with each other to grab up Hari and his ideas first, recognizing their potential to shape the future.  And even then Hari is slow to say, “Hmmmm, maybe I’ve got something here.”

Prelude to Foundation is pretty much a chase novel set in a fascinating, far flung future, with a nice level of attention given over to the ways people live and interact, and other humanitarian concerns.  Dr.Asimov also uses Prelude to Foundation to tie some of his other famous books into the continuity of the Foundation books, specifically novels in his Empire and Robot series.  At this point, that move neither overly complicates nor greatly improves the Foundation series, though it does add a bit of interesting texture, so it’ll be fascinating to see where things go in the other Foundation prequel/sequels.

Finally, in case you missed my previous announcement, HBO is now developing the Foundation books as an ongoing television series.  Interesting, huh?

"Prelude to Foundation" is available in both print and Kindle editions.

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