I’ve read quite a few reviews of this novel and many people are disappointed because it does not tie up the questions left unanswered at the end of Foundation and Earth. Much of this disappointment comes from the fact that Forward the Foundation is the last book in the series written by Asimov just before his death. I think that the disappointed fans were looking for answers in the wrong places. This novel simply gives us a closer look at Hari Seldon and the progress of the psychohistory project at Streeling University.
Roughly twelve thousand years have passed since the founding of the Galactic Empire. Almost the whole galaxy has been explored and populated accounting for 25 million inhabited worlds, most of which have at least 1 billion people each. Trantor is the ruling world of the Galactic Empire. It is covered completely with domed cities that go far under ground except for just 250 square kilometers which made up the Imperial palace grounds. Hari Seldon, a mathematician from Helicon, has traveled Trantor to give a presentation on his new theory called psychohistory. While psychohistory could ‘theoretically’ help predict future events, Hari is interested in it only as a theory and feels that it could never become practical.
The book opens up in 1949 on the day of a mysterious accident at Chicago’s Institute of Nuclear Research. Joseph Schwartz, while walking around on the other side of Chicago is somehow caught in an expanding beam of energy that transports him into an unfamiliar place. Actually, he has not traveled to another place but another time. Earth’s land is largely covered in radioactive soil, so that it can only support 20 million people. The result of this is the common practice of terminating anyone that cannot work or when they reach the age of sixty as a form of strict population control. Most people don’t resent this practice but rather look at as a way for making room for the young.