||I had some trouble with the first half
of this book, but absolutely loved the second half.
The second book in the Foundation Trilogy
is more mature in writing style, and has a more continuous narrative.
The author also makes more amusing observations about the galaxy and
human nature. As in Foundation, the writing is tight and focused, and
therefore the point is made rather quickly.
However, the point of the first half of
the book, as an Imperial General attacks the Foundation, was lost on me
until I was a fair bit through the second part. Seldon said in his first
appearance to the Encyclopedists that each crisis would become more
challenging, and that the solution would present itself only when there
was one option left, after forces both inside and outside created
pressure that would force the solution.
In my opinion, the crises seen in
Foundation did not increase in complexity -or else the people in charge
were so smart and intuitive that the solutions seemed easy. In the face
of The General, there was no leadership to speak of. Hober Mallow left a
political mess, which was successful at gathering new worlds to become
dependent on Terminus, but ineffective at facing down a physical threat.
I think what the protagonists said at
the end of the section was wrong. One person meant a lot to solving each
of the previous crises. I wondered, in my review of Foundation, what
would have occurred if those critical people had not been in charge. The
point of this section of Foundation and Empire was to answer that
question. The individual does not matter, but can speed up the solution,
or make it less bloody. As one of the characters said in The Mule
section, if they had had effective leadership at the time, the war with
the General might have been a lot less bloody.
That is the point I missed throughout
the end of the first section -the inevitability of the Foundation's
victory through social forces, even if the effective leadership is not
in place. The religion would have surfaced eventually, though it might
not have been so effective, as would a free market trading empire. With
Salvor Hardin and Hober Mallow in charge, those things took on a inertia
of their own.
The story follows Lathan Devers as he
tries to be the hero that he cannot be. He allows himself to be captured
by Bel Riose, the General, in the hope that he can sabotage the Empire
from within. But the General knows how to fight a war, and ties the
Foundation in a noose. The Emperor becomes suspicious, however, because
a popular General is not such a good thing, as they tend to assassinate
Emperors to become Emperors themselves. He sends his most loyal subject
to keep an eye on Riose, but through Devers' attempted bribery, the
advisor joins with Riose, making the Emperor even more suspicious.
Everybody is after the throne! Before the General can defeat the
Foundation, he is recalled, and executed.
Meanwhile, Devers and ally Ducem Barr
(rebel son of the person Hober Mallow met on Siwenna back in Foundation)
escape and make their way to Trantor, where they take a month not even
to reach an audience with the Emperor. However, their journey sparks
interest, in that they might be assassins from Riose, as the police know
that they have escaped easily from the General's ship. More suspicions.
They manage to escape, realizing that their journey was futile, that the
inertia of society forced the Empire to fail.
I think I enjoyed the second, longer,
part of this book even better this time around, because I knew what was
going to happen. I could read all of the signs, and I knew why people
did the things they did. When Toran suddenly rises up to defend the
Mule's jester, he surprises himself. When Magestico plays the visi-sonor,
everyone feels depressed. Magestico comes up with a complex explanation
for how they encountered a Foundation ship with the Mule's people on
board just as they were entering Imperial space. Everybody is suspicious
of the coincidence, but nobody suspects the clown.
I think my favorite part of the book is
how Hari Seldon got the crisis wrong. This was a real crisis in
development, but derailed by the arrival of the mutant Mule. The
Foundation government was taken over decades ago by a tyrannical ruler,
who passed his rule to his son then his grandson. The Traders have
declared independence and founded worlds of their own. They plan to
overthrow the government, with the help of the democratic underground on
All of this is stopped, however, when a
warlord calling himself The Mule takes over several planets, suddenly
acquiring a fleet of ships capable of confronting the Foundation. Each
planet was taken without a fight. When Bayta and Toran bring Magnifico
to Terminus, and he plays the visi-sonor for a huge crowd, they soon
feel despaired, and when the Mule's ships attack, the tyrannical Mayor
surrenders immediately. The Time Vault opens, and Seldon proclaims a
successful end to the civil war that tore open the Foundation, created a
new type of government, and therefore made it more stable for the
future. Everybody is confused! Of course, instead of attacking the
government, the Traders joined with them against the Mule. But even the
Traders gave up in the end, coincidentally after Magnifico played
several concerts on their chief world of Haven.
I liked the way the Mule had a couple
of tricks to use. He had an atomic neutralizing field, a neat
contraption that caused all atomics to stop functioning, effectively
turning off the power. At the same time, he could manipulate emotions,
making everybody depressed. Combined, these caused mass hysteria and
Before Haven falls, Toran, Bayta,
Magnifico and a psychologist Ebling Mis (greatest psychologist since
Hari Seldon, even in the mathematical sense) leave for Trantor, with a
special mission -find the Second Foundation! They try to go through
official channels, meeting with the senile Emperor on Neotrantor, who
moved there after Trantor was attacked and sacked. Doing things the
proper way gets them captured by the crown prince and his advisor, but
Magnifico plays the visi-sonor and kills the prince.
They move to Trantor, where Mis becomes
single-mindedly obsessed with finding the Second Foundation. He finds
it, of course, but not before Bayta puts the clues together and realizes
that the stupid clown, Magnifico, is really the Mule! What a great
disguise. The former Foundation Captain, Han Pritcher, shows up on
Trantor, also, converted to a loyal subject of the Mule, giving Bayta
the final clues.
It still comes as a total surprise when
Bayta kills Ebling Mis so that he won't tell the Mule where the Second
Foundation is, because, of course, he pieces everything together, under
the psychological pushing of the Mule.
While I am not a fan of the evil tyrant
telling the story of why he failed, the Mule's story is rather
intriguing. I don't recall if the story of his childhood is compatible
with what is explained in Foundation's Edge, but it became more
interesting, more human, when he told of not touching Bayta with his
mental powers, because she liked him for who he was- the first person he
had ever encountered like that. (I'm sure he would have been loved on
Gaia, if he had rediscovered it, but by then he would have been so full
of hate that he probably couldn't reintegrate.) And so Bayta defeated
him, because he had a need to feel the fullness of her emotion without
it being tampered.
As Bayta and Toran have no more power
over him, he lets them go. But his search will continue in Second
Knowing in advance
that Magnifico is the Mule makes the second part of this book very
enjoyable. For most of the book, there is no reason for the characters
to become suspicious. It is not until the come across Pritcher's ship in
Imperial space that they should have become suspicious, and it is
exactly then that Bayta started to grasp it. This part of the tale was
very engaging, and more than made up for the earlier part.
Of course, it only tells half the tale.
The Mule must be defeated, so that the Foundation can continue on. And
by then, Daneel Olivaw's project on Gaia, for the safeguarding of the
Human species, will be nearly complete, so perhaps the Foundation will
become obsolete. Then again, maybe not, because the people need to be
able to see their rulers, and must be kept ignorant of the hands that
are guiding them. We'll see!