Monday, January 25, 2010
The Hugos: Foundation
Due mostly to the urging of Bookmonkey, I began reading the Hugo award winning novels several years ago. With only three left to finish, I figure I should start reviewing them. Why not share the pomposity? The Hugos are the best sci-fi of the year as voted by several hundred people at Worldcon. The award is named for Hugo Gernsback, founder of Amazing Stories magazine. The first given as a physical award was in 1955, but they also started handing out retro Hugos in 1996. See? I can read Wikipedia. Anyway, the 1946 retro Hugo was given for Dr. Isaac Asimov's 'The Mule'. It's one of the short stories collected in 'Foundation and Empire', the second book in the 'Foundation' series. It features a future galactic society in collapse, off-stage interstellar war, and the Mule of the title. My favorite character was Bayta Darell, first rate 1940's plucky heroine. I am not of the opinion that characters were Asimov's strong suit, but then again he wrote approximately 80 billion books, while I... have not. I rate this thumbs up, with 3 out of 4 stars. Maybe I judge the older sci-fi less harshly (certainly the seventies and eighties had more Hugos I disliked than the fifties did), or maybe it's just that good. This story, this book, this series, and this prolific guy are indeed the 'foundation' of modern sci-fi. 'Star Wars' owes its central government urban planet Coruscant to Asimov's planet Trantor. Emotion-manipulating telepathic mutants in Marvel comics? 'The Mule' has that, too. If it lacks the thrills of modern stuff it certainly doesn't lack for creativity and wealth of concepts. I like his contemporary Heinlein's characters better, but then again I love reading comic books so what the hell do I know?