Foundation’s Fear

This book is a solid zero stars in my mind. I got to page 372, but simply couldn’t wade through the chore any longer. The plot meanders, and its not clear to me where the story is going. Worse still, basically nothing has happened yet. I am a little surprised, given the generally positive LibraryThing reviews. I should have read the Amazon reviews instead. Some examples:

Normally, I do a lot of my reading on the train (BART for those of you familiar with San Francisco), getting to and from work. An engrossing book keeps me awake and I read it relatively quickly. “Foundation’s Fear”, especially the first half of it, set a record for putting me to sleep. There were days in when I only managed to read a couple of pages. A paragraph or two and I’d be out, even before the train started moving. As others here have pointed out, there is a lot of boring dialogue and description and much of it focuses around the Voltaire and Joan of Arc artificial entities. Hundreds of pages of philosophical noodling and descriptions of imaginary scenes conjured up in cyberspace become numbing.

And another:

This book is not good, not because it’s not Asimov but because it’s simply not good. I had the luxury of reading it within the context of the other two “new” books and while that helps in hindsight, it doesn’t while you’re slogging through Benford’s weighty prose.

Don’t expect Asimov but then the reader shouldn’t. As Bear and to a lesser extent Brin show, authors can bring a fresh perspective on the topic and do it fairly well. Benford never seems to make up his mind which of his myriad little sub plots will be the main plot and thus, nothing really happens that expands our understanding of the Foundation Galaxy. Moreover, instead of fleshing out some of Asimov’s admittedly skimpy ideas in the Foundation galaxy or introducing new themes that build upon previous concepts, instead, we take a quantum leap into a muddled unknown with concepts (aliens and tiktoks being the two most egregious examples) that clearly don’t belong in the Foundation setting.

This book differs from Asimov’s view of the Foundation universe in important ways:

  • This book is much more explicit about Dors’ nature than Asimov ever was. There was some element of doubt in Forward the Foundation right up until Dors’ death. That is not the case with this book.
  • This book reworks Hari’s entry into the First Minister position, which I found annoying. Especially because the discussion around that entry is slow, and lacks action. Basically the new version was kinda boring.
  • Worm holes are a major part of the economic makeup of the galactic empire in this book, but somehow Asimov never mentioned them in his books.
  • This book dwells on computers, robots, artificial intelligence, and aliens — all things Asimov left out of his books (except for robots of course). Its not like Asimov was unaware of these things, he just didn’t use them in this universe.
  • This book is really long (600 pages), but nothing much seems to actually happen in the first several hundred. The Sims sequence is the first really interesting part of the book, and even that drags on into long boring descriptions of polygons waving in the virtual wind.

[isbn: 0061056383]