Foundation was a gift from my father when I was in Junior High school and it is a book I have come back to several times. Classics in any genre are always a pleasure to read, no matter how many times and this is definitely one of those. One thing I have always been amazed with Asimov's writing is that if I knew nothing about him and was just reading the book, I would almost never guess that the prose is over fifty years old. He had such an incredible grasp on the technology and issues he wrote about that to me, he still sounds informed.
The premise of the book is fairly straight forward. Set on an planet that sits at the center of the Galactic Empire, an intellectual - Hari Seldon is on trial for treasonous acts as in the course of his studies, he has made a prediction based on mathematics and psychohistory that a complete collapse of the Empire is rapidly approaching. And while the collapse cannot be avoided or stalled, he insists that by the creation of a Foundation devoted to the compiling of a galactic encyclopedia in which core knowledge of civilizations would be preserved, the period of chaos and destruction following the collapse of the Empire would be substantially reduced and that it would speed up the development of a second Empire.
The Foundation is established on an outlying world and the book is devoted to the beginnings of that society. While Seldon himself is only in the first part of the book, his presence is strongly felt as periodically a time capsule is opened to reveal recordings he left behind in order to inform future generations of imminent crises they may be facing.
One thing I like about this aspect of the story is how Seldon will hint in his messages about his true plans for the Foundation without giving specific details so as to not interfere with its natural progression.
The book takes place over several generations of the Foundation's development which is a hard task to pull off for a writer since the reader has to keep becoming re-acclimated to new characters. Asimov seems to be the master of this however and the book definitely does not suffer because if it.
Foundation is a great launching pad for an extended franchise of books but the story itself is also pretty well contained and would be worth reading even if you don't continue on into the series.