Foundation by Isaac Asimov
One of the first, if not the first, novels to bring Sci-Fi out of camp and into more meaningful subjects.
What would happen if, say, someone in the Roman Empire predicted its fall and shipped hundreds of people to Iceland to maintain the knowledge of the Empire as the rest of the world falls into barbarism. That’s the very simplified premise of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. Only think galactically circa 1950.
The book group talked about the timeliness of the novel, how the Foundation’s crises can be directly related to today’s issues. They discussed how the novel was less about character and more about the social implications of politics meeting religion. They talked about how nice it was not to explore these overarching ideas of how society should work and not the shenanigans of characters.
I was silent.
For those you who don’t know me. I am pretty soft spoken. This book evoked some pretty strong feelings.
I know now that I do not like reading about two guys sitting in a room talking about events in the empire that have happened, are happening, or will happen. The encyclopedic excerpts at the beginning of each chapter felt like an editorial cheat to me because the author couldn’t naturally work in the descriptions of the world he created. For a novel with so much at stake — the fate of the universe — it sure didn’t feel urgent.
The narration didn’t stick with any character long enough for me to invest in them. Not once did the men mention kids, or wives, or parents, or anyone for whom they would want to preserve the Empire. The men were barely delineated from one another – one had a lisp, and one talked like that guy from the 40s movies who says “see” at the end of his sentences all the time. The story felt absolutely passionless to me, and it completely pissed me off.