Thursday, March 21, 2013

Second Foundation, by Isaac Asimov

Well, we finally bring Foundation month to close with the last of the first three books, Second Foundation, which deals with both the Mule's and the First Foundation's search for the mysterious titular Second Foundation. While the First Foundation was made entirely of physical scientists and was designed to keep the spark of technology and research alive, the Second Foundation was composed of psychohistorians like Seldon whose duty was to manipulate galactic events to keep the Seldon Plan on its thousand year track. Although the Second Foundation prefers to act from well within the shadows and influence events indirectly, the recent turn of events caused by the mutant known as the Mule has forced them to take a far more direct role in galactic affairs. Now the Second Foundation faces the very real risk of discovery and destruction which may ruin any chances of the Seldon Plan reaching fruition.

As much as I really loved this book, I actually have one recommendation for how this and the previous book, Foundation and Empire, were organized. As I mentioned in my previous review, Foundation and Empire consisted of two stories, one which detailed the exploits of the Empire general Bel Riose, and the second dealing with the Mule's conquest of the First Foundation. Second Foundation also contains, as I mentioned, a story involving the Mule and a story involving just the First Foundation. If I were editing this series I would recommend putting Bel Riose's story in the first volume with the other Foundation short stories and then give both of the Mule stories their own book, leaving the last story on its own. I feel like it would work better thematically, regardless of how the stories were initially published, but that's my opinion.

Overall I really liked these stories and was really satisfied to actually see this mysterious Second Foundation at work.  Knowing that there was a group of people whose sole job was to oversee the Seldon Plan and account for accidents like the Mule made the premise much more believable for me. As I mentioned in my previous reviews I had a little trouble swallowing the idea that one man was able to carefully chart out the history of an entire galaxy for a thousand years, even if it was in vague generalities. However, the Second Foundationers continually remind the reader that the Seldon Plan is never complete and must continually be amended and reanalyzed with a constant risk of the plan being completely destroyed. Knowing that there was an active force ensuring the success of the Seldon Plan made the whole premise more believable for me.

I did have a slight issue with the ending of the first story which involved a mental showdown between the Mule and the First Speaker of the Second Foundation. I think it might be because it involved a psychic battle of wills and morale which isn't really something I can understand, not being psychic myself, but I think I grasped the general idea. I also kind of found the idea of the Second Foundation having well-placed double agents a little implausible, but considering they are a group of people dedicated to careful calculations of the future it makes sense for them to have that level of preparation. For most of the stories I liked the level of space opera battles and galactic intrigue which made for an interesting political narrative.

Overall I was very pleased with these three novels and am excited to read the rest of the Foundation series in the future to see the fate of the Seldon Plan and if the First Foundation can successfully create a Second Empire. Next month we shall be returning to more common books here on the blog like the Bolo series but hopefully Asimov will make another appearance here in the future. I recommend all my readers who are interested in history, politics, or a good space opera to check out the Foundation series.

- Kalpar

No comments:

Post a Comment