The Foundation Triology By Isaac Asimov Ernie Webb recently gave me three first editions of the start of Asimov’s Foundation series. Anyone who has ever seen me read will tell you that I love sci-fi or science fiction. Asimov is one of the authors who was responsible for that. It has been said that he was one of the greatest sci-fi writers and I would have to agree with that. In an interview he once said, “All I do is write. I do practically nothing else, except eat, sleep and talk to my wife.” But on to the Foundation series, which won a Hugo.
Foundation marks the first of a series of tales set so far in the future that Earth is all but forgotten by humans who live throughout the galaxy. Yet all is not well with the Galactic Empire. Its vast size is crippling to it. In particular, the administrative planet, honeycombed and tunneled with offices and staff, is vulnerable to attack or breakdown. The only person willing to confront this imminent catastrophe is Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian and mathematician. Seldon can scientifically predict the future, and it doesn’t look pretty: a new Dark Age is scheduled to send humanity into barbarism in 500 years. He concocts a scheme to save the knowledge of the race in an Encyclopedia Galactica. He creates the Foundation, which though the Encyclopedia, will continue to be the caretakers and then masters of physical knowledge and shorten mankind’s new dark age to only 1,000 years instead of 30,000.
Unlike the first Foundation book, which was a series of several related but not inter-connected stories, Foundation and Empire contains two longer stories – including one novella. This allows Asimov to flesh out the stories more – add more detail and plot intricacies. In the second story, the addition of The Mule, makes this the masterpiece of the Foundation series. It tells of a paranormal mutant, The Mule, who falls outside the scope of Hari Seldon’s psychohistory. The story is told in almost a detective story fashion as we try to uncover the identity of The Mule. It’s quite as suspenseful and involving as Asimov is at his best, and it’s one of his must read classics. There’s quite a lot of plot tangling and twists, and the ending is a shocker.
In Second Foundation, Sheldon’s psychohistorian descendents, we learn more details about the second foundation. Does it still exist? Where is it? What does it do? Second Foundation is actually a clever answer to the critics of Hari Seldon. There are flaws in psychohistory. This book explains what some of those flaws are, and how Seldon prepared to deal with them.
In Second Foundation, the book starts with the “Mule” and his search for the Second Foundation.
The Mule has already conquered the first Foundation. He has the most powerful Empire in the Universe. His troops are undefeated. Yet, in the midst of his actions and continual successes, he halts he troops.
The Mule, who is a “mutant” able to control emotions, has discovered that someone or something else has this same talent. The Mule’s key personnel have been attacked. Their initiative and creativity have been altered to make them ineffective and incompetent at their assigned tasks. Since his Empire was based on his mutant power, anyone or anything that has the same power is an overwhelming threat to him. Could this “second power” be the Second Foundation?
The second story in this book is the story of a group of scientists from the first foundation seeking out the second foundation. They are convinced it exists. Based on their new science, they are able to detect the influence of people whom them believe to be part of the second foundation. These scientists search for the second foundation. But sometimes success can be more dangerous then failure. That’s all I am going to tell you. Buy the books and get hooked. The first one was written in 1952 but the series still carries on in reprint to this day. Four more books have been added to the original three but they by far remain the best way to get to know the foundation universe of Isaac Asimov.
Blood on the Hills The Canadian Army in the Korean War By David J. Benson, Published by the University of Toronto Press, 1999 reprinted 2002 I ordered this book because my father is a Korean War veteran. Though I had heard some stories from him I have very little knowledge of this war. It turns out that I am not alone in this, as many Canadians know little or nothing about it. The war itself marked one of the first times that Canadians would be involved in a United Nations action. I guess you could say that it was a prelude to the UN peacekeepers that the Canadian army is so famous for. The book is amazingly detailed and shows what happened from the events leading up to the war and the war itself. One story I found to be fun was that, to boost morale among the Canadian soldiers, two hockey rinks were constructed on a frozen pond with huts for providing coffee, hotdogs and hamburgers. It was said some of the best hockey in Southeast Asia was played there only to be periodically interrupted by the war. During one hockey game involving my dad’s unit, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and the Canadian Royal 22, a half-track broke through the ice at one end and flooded the game out.
The weather was one of the contributing factors to the morale problem. In the summer it was a blistering heat with swarms of flies combined with constant dirt and dust. The exceptions to this were when solidiers were soaked in blinding downpours and had to move about in the resulting muddy gumbo. In winter roads were often slick from freezing rain, heavy snowfalls could and would cut off much needed supply lines and night would bring deep and bitter colds. Most of the Canadian army clothing was unsuited to the conditions until near the end of the war. Weapons were out-dated and many Canadians traded for better weapons from other countries involved in the police action.
Most of the attacks took place during the night so solidiers would get what sleep they could during the morning. It was a light sleep as the enemy would still have the occasional day raid and you had to be ready. One advantage the allies (Canada, U.K., U.S., Britain, Australia, Belgium and New Zealand to name a few) was air superiority. They owned the sky for the duration of the war. Unfortunately the air superiority was next to useless during the night attacks.
A standard night practice was to have a third of the unit in defensive position while the rest were out on patrol or work parties. There would be switches to allow for two or three hours of rest. The patrols were necessary to find out what the Chinese were up to that night. It must have been nerve wracking.
Canada sent 21,940 men into what U.S. President Harry Truman called a police action. In total, there were 1,543 Canadian casualties, of which 309 were killed in action or missing and presumed dead, 1,202 were wounded, 32 were prisioners of war and 93 died from non-battle causes.
The war was a part of our history and deserves more attention than Canada has ever given it. This book makes up for some of that lack and now it is up to us to read it so we can know what happened.
Top Ten Fiction list 1 EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL, by Stephen King. (Scribner. $28.) A collection of 14 “dark tales” about the strange and the supernatural.
2 THE SUMMONS, by John Grisham. (Doubleday, $27.95.) A law professor who has been called home to Mississippi by his father, a dying judge, discovers more than $3 million in cash in the old man’s study.
3 2ND CHANCE, by James Patterson with Andrew Gross. (Little, Brown, $26.95.) The members of the Women’s Murder Club – a detective, a medical examiner, a prosecutor and a reporter — search for a killer.
4 THE NANNY DIARIES, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. (St. Martin’s, $24.95.) A satirical look at rich and powerful New Yorkers through the eyes of an Upper East Side nanny.
5 BODY OF LIES, by Iris Johansen. (Bantam, $24.95.) A United States senator summons the forensic sculptor Eve Duncan to Baton Rouge, La., for the purpose of identifying the remains of a murder victim.
6 WIDOW’S WALK, by Robert B. Parker. (Putnam, $24.95.) The lawyer for a sexy young woman whose much older millionaire husband has been shot to death hires the Boston private eye Spenser to investigate.
7 THE COTTAGE, by Danielle Steel. (Delacorte, $26.95.) An aging, virtually penniless Hollywood star experiences excitement and even happiness after he rents out part of his house.
8 ATONEMENT, by Ian McEwan. (Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday, $26.) A chronicle of the disintegration of an English family’s idyllic life.
9 THE STONE MONKEY, by Jeffery Deaver. (Simon & Schuster, $25.) A quadriplegic forensics genius tries to capture a notorious smuggler of human beings.
10 A CARESS OF TWILIGHT, by Laurell K. Hamilton. (Ballantine, $23.95.) The further adventures of Merry Gentry, a private investigator with supernatural powers.