Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Thoughts: Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov

   Confession: I have only just recently read a book by Asimov. Yes, I know he's a master of science fiction. I just haven't had a chance or the time to read his works until recently. Therefore, when I found a copy of Foundation and Earth (being a part of his well-known Foundation series) I promised myself I would read it. And I have. Even after finding out it is the final book in the series. However, Asimov himself wrote that it more or less stands alone, so I read it. What did I learn?
    He's not boring.
   I actually thought Asimov would be boring. But he's not. He's actually a very similar author to me (rather, I'm like him). He has lots of talking. There's talking on a planet, followed by talking in space, followed by a landing, followed by talking on another planet, which is followed by a hasty departure, which has (you guessed it) talking. And repeat multiple times. That's a loose plot of the whole book. And I'm fine with that. I love dialogue and probably have far too much of it in my books than I should (ever notice that almost all my climaxes result in the villain and hero just talking to each other?). So this book really caught my interest and held it throughout.
   The book is set on exploring one theme: what would cause humanity to give up its individuality? See, the main character (Golan Trevize) has decided that humanity needs to be incorporated into the living planet Gaia (a mind which controls all things on the planet as well as the planet itself). Gaia wants to become Galaxia and Trevize has given the all clear. Yet, he wonders why, and wants to find the answer before letting Gaia actually go through with the transformation. And so he sets off on an adventure to figure out why humanity should end and Galaxia should reign. Trevize spends the novel searching for Earth, assuming that the answer he seeks resides on the ancient home of humanity.
   Guess what? He finds it. He finds the reason that humanity must be ended: so that it may survive. There are aliens out in the universe, and it is only a matter of time until they try and take the planets of humanity. Individuals will surely fall before such an onslaught, but humanity incorporated into one being, working in complete cooperation, can never be overthrown. Trevize realizes that the only thing that can cause humanity to give up its freedom is fear.
   This ending really threw me for a loop. Most stories that explore this theme come to the conclusion that freedom must be preserved, no matter what might threaten it. I'm not sure if Asimov advocates this view or if he presents it as a flawed conclusion to make the reader think. Either way, it made me really ponder this question of what freedom is worth. And if freedom should be advocated even in the face of threats, then what other solution could there be?
   The only thing I can come up with is love.
   Love declares that otherness is not to be afraid of. It declares that I should be kind and care for those who are different than I am. That I should care and even sacrifice myself for those who are hostile towards me. In the Bible, John the Apostle wrote that perfect love casts out fear. Jesus taught that he gave such a love that I can even love my enemies. I can love those who hurt me, because love is greater than violence, it is greater than threats, it is greater than fear.
   This may not be the conclusion Asimov arrives at, but it is the one that I came to as I thought about Foundation and Earth. What did you think? Comment below!

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