I was halfway through Foundation, the first in a seminal sci-fi trilogy/series, when I told my boyfriend, from whom I'd borrowed the book, that I wasn't getting into it. It wasn't bad, I just wasn't invested. He advised me to keep going until the end, because a lot of people have had the same complaint and end up flying through the rest of the books. I trusted him and kept going (not that I had a choice anyways, in this contest), and wouldn't you know it, he was right! I finished this one quickly and went right on to the second, third, and fourth entries in the Foundation Trilogy.
Hari Seldon is A Man with A Plan. Seldon is the pioneer of the field of psychohistory, which applies math to large-scale social events, allowing him to predict the future of human society with gigantic probabilistic equations. He is living far in the future, after humans have colonized millions of planets across the Milky Way Galaxy, space travel is common via hyperspace, Earth is considered a myth if considered at all, and the planet Trantor is the administrative seat of the Galactic Empire. Seldon predicts the downfall of the Empire, and the approximately 30,000 years of chaos, internecine war, intellectual darkness, and suffering that will ensue if drastic steps aren't taken to shorten the time before a new empire will unite the squabbling planets.
To bring about a new empire after only 1,000 years, Seldon sets up what is ostensibly a research center ("The Foundation") with the task of writing the Encyclopedia Galactica on the isolated planet Terminus, but his real reason is to have Terminus become the densest concentration of scientific knowledge in the universe after the deterioration of Trantor. With the heads of The Foundation firmly tasked with the singular goal of completing the Encyclopedia, and their collective scientific heads buried in that quest, Terminus has no way to get out invasion by one or other of the nearby planets who want to take it over.
No way, that is, until the mayor of the capital city, Salvor Hardin, screws science and does some realpolitik, maneuvering a peaceful solution to the crisis. The Seldon Crisis, as it turns out, was predicted by Seldon, and the age of Mayors begins, ending the sham rule of the Encyclopedists. A Seldon Crisis is a point in time, predicted by Hari, in which his plan could go off the rails. If a successful solution isn't found to any of the Crises, the thousand-year plan might fail, and the tens of thousands of years of barbarism might come to pass.
Terminus's superior knowledge of things like nuclear power, and free sharing of that knowledge to neighboring planets, allows them to slowly but surely gain power and influence by making themselves economically invaluable. In time, more Seldon Crises pop up, and each one is averted and results in a new ruling class (Traders, and then Merchant Princes). The first book covers fewer than 200 years after the Foundation is established, though, and Seldon knew that there was a small chance that something would go wrong that early in the game. But the chances increase the further in the future we go. Dun dun DUNNNNN!