||Very enjoyable, all the way through. I
have to wonder, however, what the overall point of the story was.
Like the last book in this series,
to Foundation, this book is divided up into various sections, each
pertaining to a self-contained plot. The earliest sections are set up
like mystery novels, with a nefarious scheme of some kind, the characters
trying to solve it, and the execution of the solution itself. By far,
the most enjoyable sections were the first and last ones.
In the first section, a group of people
under a charismatic leader attempt to gain popular control of the
government, by leading attacks on Eto Demerzel, the First Minister, who
was revealed to Hari Seldon in the last book to be the robot Daneel.
Through the various conversations between the main characters, we get a
sense of the Galactic Empire and how society is working. Although
Demerzel says that the Empire is failing, it is not so noticeable, yet.
Psychohistory is more than a simple theory, as it was in the last book,
but still has no more than a theoretical value.
Hari's partner in developing
psychohistory is Yugo Amaryl, whom Seldon picked up in Dahl during the
last book, and probably has more to do with the development of the
theory than anybody- Seldon included! In fact, all through the book, he
spends so much time in front of the Prime Radiant that he has no life. I
suppose that Asimov realized that allowing Hari to develop the theory on
his own would lead to a dull story. Hari does all of the socializing,
and while he has numerous inputs and directs the whole thing, he has
more of an administrative job. He realizes that to keep the creativity
going, he needs some sort of social interaction. Yugo provides the
mathematics, but Hari provides almost 100% of the creativity and
At the beginning of the book, Hari
scoffs at the intuition that Yugo and Dors talk about. Yet he uses an
intuition of his own when he sends his adopted son Raych to meet with
Jo-Jo Joranum, leader of the plot to overthrow the First Minister.
Seldon found out that Joranum was not from the small remote planet where
he claimed to be from, but actually the territory of Mycogen on Trantor.
Mycogen, we know from the last book, believes that there is a robot
taken human form who still lives today, so Hari has his son, who seems
to harbor rebellious thoughts to which Joranum's views appeal, tells the
man that Demerzel is a robot, which then spreads through the public.
However, Hari and Dors teach Demerzel how to laugh, which he does when
the question about being a robot is posed to him, on live holovision.
That settles the matter, in the public's mind -robots don't laugh. It seems to me, however, that showing Demerzel
on holovision would allow him to be recognized by all those people who
know him and owe him favors (from the last book) as Hummin. Could Daneel
manipulate them all at once to forget? Or perhaps he manipulated them in
the last book into only thinking that they owed him favors in the first
In the second section, however, we
learn that Daneel has found all the publicity to be too much, so
Demerzel "retires", and Emperor Cleon I appoints Hari Seldon to be the
new First Minister. Appalled, Hari has no choice. Daneel has apparently
gone as far as he can with the Empire, and leaves the planning of saving
humanity to Hari. He goes off to his other project to save humanity,
which is obviously Gaia (from Foundation's Edge). It is interesting how,
far in the future, his two plans for humanity will clash.
Although Joranum has died in the ten
years since his humiliation, his movement still lives, barely, headed by
his second-in-command. Once again, Raych is sent to infiltrate the
organization, but is recognized immediately. The Joranumites take
advantage of him and drug him, so that he almost kills his father, which
would open the door for the Joranumites to take control of the First
Minister's office. This was a mistake on Hari's part, but both he and
Raych are saved when an undercover security officer whom Raych fell in
love with kills the one controlling Raych. The interesting twist comes
from a completely unexpected place. Hari became good friends with one of
the gardeners in the Imperial Palace after the man tried to thwart an
assassination attempt on his life. When this comes to Cleon's attention,
he decides to promote the man to Head Gardener, which appalls the man,
because he loves being outdoors, while the Head never gets to step out
of his office. A new Head Gardener means new gardeners all around, which
provides the opportunity for the Joranumites to infiltrate the Palace
grounds. The gardener is so distraught at being promoted that he picks up
one of the dropped blasters and kills the Emperor! Although I have read
this book before, and remember Demerzel laughing in the last section, I
had no recollection of this whatsoever, which made it quite enjoyable.
Psychohistory makes some minor
breakthroughs in this section, as they are able to make some very simple
predictions. One of them is that either the outskirts of the Empire, or
its centre, Trantor, must break away. Hari does everything in his power
as First Minister to allow Trantor to survive, and apparently it is
enough, as it survives Cleon's death. I like the way that everybody
thinks that Seldon is working based on pre-determined knowledge based on
psychohistory, when he is simply applying his intuition naturally, as
psychohistory eventually will. He is an intuitive psychohistorian,
introducing very minimalist changes, consciously.
Asimov gets to tackle a military
government in the next section, when Hari turns sixty. His description
of the Empire under military rule was interesting, especially how it
sped up the decay of the Empire. Less interesting was the mystery of who
was plotting to kill Hari Seldon. Hari's granddaughter, Wanda, was
curled up in Hari's office chair after the office was cleared out to
make room for his grand birthday party. She overheard two men talking
about killing Hari by "lemonade death", which is very curious, and sets
off paranoia in Dors. All throughout these two books, it has been hinted
that Dors was a robot. Hari even believed it at the end of the last
book, but brainwashed himself into not believing it. She single-handedly
gains access to the Imperial Palace to meet with the First Minister,
after explicitly being told that she could not enter, even by Hari
himself. At this point, after ten years of Imperial rule, Hari attempts
to destabilize the government by applying a minor suggestion about taxes
to the junta leader. Dors nearly ruins it by interrupting, but Hari and
Amaryl have predicted that what Hari has done would be enough.
The plot against Hari is related to the
previous one, as the military leaders want somebody more pliable in
charge of the psychohistory project. All throughout the book, the
project has been funded by the government, and has grown. Cleon and
Demerzel wanted Hari to develop psychohistory, and Cleon thought that
Hari was already using it to some extent, even when he was simply using
his intuition. Even the military government is interested in it, so they
continue the funding. I was suspicious of the new prominent
mathematician, Elan, from the start, and not for the reasons that Dors
was. Mostly it was because he was always sucking up to Hari, and that
he was so preoccupied with recognition, as in calling equations by the
names of the people who created them, for example. He created the
Electro-Clarifier, which allowed psychohistory to proceed at an
incredible pace, nearly completing it, in fact. When Dors questions Elan
about the effects of the Electro-Clarifier on humans, he reveals that it
is harmless, but that it could easily affect a robot's systems. Just
before she dies, she manages to kill Elan, which of course seals her
fate. I wonder if Daneel discovered the secret to Solaria's robots in
Robots and Empire, as Dors easily places more importance on Hari's life
than on Elan's, even though Hari was not in immediate danger. Or
perhaps it is simply the Zeroth Law taking precedence. "Lemonade death"
was actually a mispronunciation of "Elan-Monay death", which is what
Elan called the Electro-Clarifier.
After Dors dies and the military junta
is replaced by an Emperor, Hari's life goes downhill. Funding is cut,
Amaryl dies, and even Raych and his wife are killed by an uprising on an
outer world where Raych decided to go to teach. Only Wanda stayed with
Hari, because somebody had to take care of him when he refused to leave,
and because he discovered that she could read and somewhat affect minds,
sort of like what Daneel can do. In fact, Daneel created Gaia out of
people like Wanda, only stronger in mental powers. So he and Hari were
working along similar lines.
Wanda, however, fails every test that
she sets for herself. She cannot mentally "push" anybody who does not
want to be pushed. She does not affect the people who try to assault
Hari, nor does she affect the judge who sees the assault case. Hari is
acquitted, but his publicity gets him thrown out of the Library, and his
funding is completely cut. Fortunately, he meets a young man named
Palver (who will have a descendent in Second Foundation), who agrees to
be his bodyguard. When Palver and Wanda meet, they discover that they
can both affect minds, and that they are stronger together. This, of
course, is the start of the Second Foundation. They get Seldon new
access to the Library to start his Encyclopedia Galactica project, and
recruit more people who can affect minds, like they can. The effect is a
snowball until the Second Foundation is born.
The Epilog overlaps with the prolog to
Foundation, as Seldon's project is banished to Terminus -later to become
the First Foundation.
Considering how all of Seldon's life
was presented as being difficult, but with easy solutions (after much
research and thought, of course), I liked the last section almost the
best as everything starts to fall apart, including the Empire.
Psychohistory is nearly stopped, and everybody he knows dies or goes
into hiding, like Wanda. He had to make so many severe sacrifices in the
last section, which is what makes it so much worth reading.
This book was less about Foundation and
psychohistory, and more about Hari Seldon and the people who surrounded
him, and their intuition. Intuition plays a large part in all of the
sections, while psychohistory plays a minor role.
I can see some of Asimov's trademark
writing style in the first three sections. He has explained that he
thinks of a problem and solution, then writes along a straight line
between them. This is how the mystery aspect comes into play, as we
wonder how he can possibly solve the problem, and question his solution
until it comes to fruition. Everything has a place in the solution, so
that very little is actually wasted.
I seem to recall that some (or all) of
the sections were published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. I
wonder if that explains why most sections have recitations of what
occurred in earlier sections, as if a month or so passed between reading
them, and the reader needed a refresher. I found this to be rather
annoying, as it makes for a lot of repetition. There are more subtle
ways to remind us of what happened in Prelude to Foundation, or even
earlier in this book! One aspect of the writing that I found interesting
was the use of hindsight, or flashbacks. Because each section progressed
by ten years, the intermediate events had to be covered this way.
Seldon died at seventy years old, close
to the same age as Asimov lived to be. I wonder if Seldon's constant
preoccupation with age was a reflection of the author, as Asimov died
even before the book was published. Also standard Asimov, and possibly
due to his age, was the way all of the men were called by their last
names, while the women were given their first names in the narration.
The women were also described by their looks, especially Wanda, who
seemed to project a desire for people to do things "for the pretty young
Although I get very
tired of people with mind-reading abilities in Asimov's later novels,
the mind-readers in this book were required because of the setup, which
was written so many years ago. This book gives reference to another mind
reader: the girl from Nemesis. I find it very
doubtful that an obscure story about a girl and sentient planet
communicating could survive for so many thousands of years, with even
the name of the planet retained unaltered. On the other hand, I like the
way Asimov tried to link so many of his seemingly unrelated novels
In my review of
Prelude to Foundation, and many of
Asimov's other "later" books, I have complained about too much talk, and
too much thought, where the characters simply talk and think a problem
to death; over and over and over until the reader mentally wishes them
to stop, finally! This book had a lot of dialog and a lot of thought,
but it was much more mature, and much more fulfilling. It was not
and thoughts described a failing Empire, with actions like a military
junta and thug gangs roaming the streets, that complement it. The story
was about various plots to kill Hari Seldon, for various reasons.
Psychohistory is a side-story, which comes to fruition by the end. I
liked the story a lot, and it was very well-written, but it would have
been nicer if something more held it together.