I picked up Foundation late last year because 1) I had always wanted to read Asimov and 2) I desperately needed short books to help me catch up on my Goodreads reading challenge. After blasting through the original Foundation trilogy and I, Robot (which deserve their own post sometime in the future), I received the Robot books for Christmas (thanks Mum!).
The premise is pretty simple. Elijah Baley is a detective in not-so-distant-future New York. Mankind has split into two distinct groups. On Earth, mankind lives in underground Cities, in caves of steel if you will, hiding from the sun and rarely walking above ground in the open air. Spacers have — you guessed it– scattered to a number of outer planets, creating small, exclusive colonies. In addition to their obvious lifestyle differences, Spacers and men of Earth differ in one vital way. While Spacers use, respect, and welcome robots, the people of Earth hate and fear them — allowing only the most basic models to perform basic functions.
When a murder is committed in New York’s aptly named Space Town, Baley is sent to investigate. He is assigned R. Daneel as a partner and liaison — a robot that looks so perfectly human he can blend in with and move freely in the crowds in New York. What follows challenges everything Baley has come to know and believe.
To be perfectly frank, I freaking loved this book. The mechanics of the murder and how the mystery unfolds are not particularly interesting — this is not a piece of crime fiction. This is an examination of mankind’s evolution, fears, hopes, and dreams. Baley, a man so set in his ways, so lost in his own prejudices, is forced to change and refocus as the elements of the crime unfold. He is prejudiced, stubborn, and quite frankly a bit of a dick. He doesn’t make the world a better place — he doesn’t even really become a better man by the end of the book — but he certainly does change. This incredibly thought provoking book sticks with you long after you finish and remains particularly relevant in today’s social climate.
Rating: Five yeast-based food products out of five
Should I read this?
Yes! And you don’t even need to read his other books first. This is a great jumping off point for Asimov.