Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Prelude to Foundation by Issac Assimov

I have just finished reading Prelude to Foundation by Issac Assimov. Though it is the Prelude it was written after the completion of the Foundation Series as an effort to unify all his books into a series.

Did I read this book before? Well, I don’t know. The name Hari Seldon sounded familiar. I have read two foundation books namely Second Foundation and Foundation’s Edge. Does Hari Seldon come in them? Though the name sounded familiar, the story did not. Nor did “psychohistory”. So what is Psychohistory?

The story starts in the 12020 GE (Galactic Era), when the Galactic Empire consists of thousands of inhabited worlds. A young Mathematician Hari Seldon from Helicon Sector (its part of the Galactic Empire) proposes the idea of predicting the future with the help of mathematics–psychohistory. Though he knows that this can be theoretically done he feels its practically impossible because to predict the future one needs to know all of the past of the thousands of worlds- which would be highly complex.

Though Emperor Cleon I sits on the imperial throne of the Galactic Empire in Trantor, its known too well its Demerzel, his chief of staff who actually rules. The Empire is degenerating and is in need of a Prophet and psychohistory. In short they need Hari, either to be with them developing psychohistory thus predicting their good for them or Hari should die so he wouldn’t help their enemies. (Of course the all powerful empire has enemies, the Mayor of Wye sector). Hari becomes a fugitive running from Empire to protect his freedom and also to realize his goal of making psychohistory a reality. Hummin a journalist helps Hari escape.

As a fugitive, Hari is placed in Streeling University under the care of Dors Venabili, ( a beautiful and resourceful lady) a historian. As the Empires hands reaches the unreachable University ( The Empire does not want to interfere with the University and its students because “Knowledge is power”) Hari flees to another place of refuge with Dors. They take refuge in Mycogen Sector (Name sounds familiar, it means Yeast Producer). Mycogens are proud because of their past and they are producers of best food etc. But they treat their women very badly, almost subhuman. Hari and Dors have to flee from there to reach Dahl Sector, which is a poor area with slums. This sector produces energy for the Planet. Why do these parts remind me of Time Machine? In Time Machine, Wells predicts that if the inequalities between different classes of societies is not solved human beings would develop into two different species. One the highly sophisticated happy unintelligent upper class and the other the savage and brutal animal like worker class. Of course this would happen some thousands of years later. Galactic Empire does happen 20000 years from present. Anyway Hari and Dors have to leave Dahl Sector too. They are taken to there final destination by a benefactor.

Though their destination was not a surprise to me, I did wonder why it was a surprise to Hari. But that is because there are other big surprises that this one becomes too small. Maybe Assimov is giving concession to us poor people “Ok guess this one”. Want to know what these surprises are? You will have to read “Prelude to Foundation".

Yes, finally Hari thinks with some help he could actually develop psychohistory and Dors becomes his life long companion.

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