Sep 162014

FoundationThis novel reminded me of an epic fantasy insofar as it is fascinated with large-scale historical change, the political consequences of religion, the fragmentation of social life and magic. (In this novel, “magic” is a mathematics that no one understands that a prophet figure has used to predict the future.)

Three aspects of its point of view set it apart from epic fantasy:

  1. The narrative tracks the sweep of history across several epochs rather than detailing efforts to cope with a single transition from one epoch to the other.
  2. The characters are upper-middle-class politicians and merchants rather than lower class artisans, labourers, or orphans.
  3. The story turns around the decisive actions of the “Great Men” of history rather than on the appearance and transfiguration of a messiah.

Set alongside the celebration of nuclear power and the ubiquitous use of cigarettes as a sign of sophistication and competence, number three gives the novel a decidedly old-fashioned feel.