Foundation, by Isaac Asimov
"Foundation," and its subsequent sequels and prequels, is a member of the science fiction cannon. When a friend mentioned he was going to read it, I found it on my bookshelf and decided to do so as well. Perhaps I am used to big, thick volumes and lots of world-building in modern sci-fi, but I found that it left me wanting much, much more. The idea behind "Foundation" is exceptionally grand in scope: several thousand years into our own future, Hari Seldon uses the mathematical science of psychohistory to predict the fall of the all-powerful Empire. He and his cadre position a group of scientists and intellectuals, the Foundation, to ride out the decline and minimize the years of anarchy that will follow. The concept is vast: by using statistics and mathematizing the way groups operate and think, Seldon is able to predict both the general flow of future history as well as surprisingly small, insightful details. This book, written in 1951, describes a few turning points along this timeline. It's incredibly intriguing, and I definitely want to read the rest of the Foundation novels, but I wish it were longer, that each crisis were fleshed out considerably so I could really dig my teeth into it. Instead, I read it in two days. The book seems too small for such a big idea, so I really look forward to reading the rest of the series to see what he does with it.