Review: Foundation

It’s nice to feel validated, even by fiction. But it’s a fiction by Isaac Asimov for fuck sake. Reading Foundation made me felt that. I was always convinced that religion must be preserved for its utility to accelerate a civilization from chaotic deep shit into a recognizably lawful society. But like a weapon, it must be unsheathed and sheathed in a proper manner. To actually do that, unfortunately, we pudding brain apes aren’t capable of knowing surely when. But in Foundation, Hari Seldon managed to calculate it with his Psychohistory.

The Galactic Empire was on the brink of its own fate. There’s nothing that could be done at that moment to prevent the fall. But, based on his Psychohistory calculation, Hari Seldon said, he could, at least, try to build a foundation to reduce the dark ages that would come, from 30000 years to merely 1000 years. Thus, it was built at the edge of the Galaxy. At first, the foundation was there only to compile and to process knowledge into a gigantic Encyclopedia meant to be a source of light in the dark, but then it changed and evolved into so much more.

The men from Terminus –the world where The Foundation organization was built– was called “magicians” by the citizens that lived in the crumbling shadows of the old empire. Here is an excerpt:

“There have been stories percolating through space. They travel strange paths and become distorted with every parsec, but when I was young there was a small ship of strange men, who did not know our customs and could not tell where they came from. They talked of magicians at the edge of the Galaxy; magicians who glowed in the darkness, who flew unaided through the air, and whom weapons would not touch.”

The story itself is revolved around the powerplay happened within the Foundation, and its dynamics with external powers, and its whole fate against the crises that had been predicted by Sheldon. It’s merely about ideas illustrated clearly by clever characters and interesting events. It’s great. I really loved it. Thanks, Asimov! I’ll continue to read the next two books of the trilogy.

Review: Hyperion

I read the prologue and thought that I would be disappointed by the book. The words written and arranged, mostly to describe sceneries, and the acts of the character. Seemed lacking in the presentation of ideas for a sci-fi book. But when I read the awesome sceneries of Templar Treeship and the might of Tesla Tree in Flame Forest, I was convinced that, this Dan Simmons is the real deal. I kept reading, and still somewhat a bit disappointed though for different reasons.

The book itself is about a pilgrimage. A weird one, it involved a mysterious vicious creature and many death and a number of tragic events. Also, it happened when the world was about to be burned in flames of war. The seven pilgrims gathered and traveled together to the Time Tombs. The earlier banters between these people felt a bit cheesy at first, but when The Priest story unfolded, I was, WOAH, mesmerized, pretty much hooked by the book.

Each story of them are memorable. From the wonders of the flame forest, and the horror of the Bikura tribe in The Priest’s story, The Soldier’s nut-busting adventure and his magical time-manipulating mirror armor, The Poet’s bloody goddamn muse, the merlin disease of The Scholar’s daughter, the ala-matrix adventure in AI datumplane with The Detective’s cybrid boyfriend, to the love story of The Consul’s grandparents. They’re definitely rich, varied, and worth reading and rereading. Wonderful.

Even after finished reading the book, I still think about them sometimes. This afternoon, I wondered about The Consul’s grandmother and grandfather. It was almost tragic and sad when I read it at first, but something felt odd. The story of their encounter, was first, a non abnormal passion of youth, then became a myth, then became a part of subtle political machination, then a legend, and eventually a kickstart of rebellion. There were several reunion happened between them; between the shipman who flew among the stars with a time-debt that made him seem to stay young (compared to her) and the beautiful poet who stayed and waited and got old in her home planet. When was the love ended? Perhaps it never ended, perhaps it never started, perhaps it never mattered. Perhaps I need to read the story once again. Yes, this book is begging to be read and reread over again.

This reminds me of what Gene Wolfe once said in a chain letter to George R. R. Martin and Greg Benford:

“My definition of a great story has nothing to do with “a varied and interesting background.” It is: One that can be read with pleasure by a cultivated reader and reread with increasing pleasure. The business about a varied and interesting background belongs to my definition of a good story.

But. It was just that. This whole book, Hyperion, is just that. Six great background stories of the seven pilgrims. Only six? Why? The Templar was mysteriously separated from the group. No, even until the book ended, I failed to find a decent explanation about it. What about the pilgrimage? No, the pilgrimage didn’t even finish. They didn’t even encounter The Shrike yet. The book ended with these guys singing some wizard of oz soundtrack, holding hands, walking to the Time Tombs together. Yeah. Just that.

If I were the author, I would end this book by using The Templar disappearance as a device so that he would reappear at the end, with a revelation of something worthy. Perhaps, that would make the book ended in more pleasing cadence; giving readers more sense of completion though the pilgrimage didn’t actually finish.

Anyway, I admit that I love this book, despite tossing it away in anger after I finished reading it.  As I read the story after story, each added a larger perspective of the setting. About the Web, the AI, the Farcaster, the Ousters, the Shrike. They’re more than the sum of its parts. Great job Dan Simmons. Love your work.

Because of this book, perhaps, I’ll break my own promise not to buy new books until I read all of the book I already bought. But, damn, now I really want to buy and read the sequel. Yes, I’ll break my own promise for the Fall Of Hyperion.