the 5 star Childhood's End. Nonetheless, I avoid most of these types of books knowing I don't love the genre and know that most will not be nearly as good as Childhood's End. However, I had heard for a while that Asimov's Foundation was on the same level. And, for about 3/4ths of this book, it was, then things turned a bit south.
To begin, this book has lots of similarities to Childhood's End. Both were written many years ago (Foundation was 1951), both take place in the future, both are relatively short, both have great dialogue and interesting characters, both jump over large chunks of time, and both are really political dramas mixed with science fiction. Actually, that last element is probably what I like most about both books. While they do describe a future society that is certainly "fictional", this book is really a struggle about world domination and political power.
As I alluded to in the first paragraph, I found the first 75% of this book phenomenal, 5 star level. It was a crisp and exhilarating read that I could not put down. The premise was fantastic and maybe the most influential character only lasted for a few pages, though his legacy seemed to last a millennium. As the book continued after its fast start, it was a pleasure to try to keep up with. Asimov also did a superb job bringing up a new story line right as the previous one was getting stale; truly, his timing was perfect.
Then, as the novel was getting to it's close, things slowed down. The text wasn't as crisp. The new characters didn't make quite as much sense. The connections and lines from the beginning of the novel weren't tied as closely and the reader began to get a bit more confused and bored. Don't get me wrong, the last quarter still shines and the story line is nearly as good as the majority of the story just not quite as good. As I finished up, I actually wonder if Asimov knew at that point that this would be a trilogy (that eventually turned in 7 books, I believe) and slowed the story down.
Overall, this is a great read. Other than the slow down a bit at the end, it's an exciting and exhilarating story told be a master storyteller. If you have any interest in classic (or modern) science fiction and/or liked Childhood's End, I strongly urge you to read this novel. There is a good chance you will not regret your decision.