||While the building of the Foundation
through a series of crises led us through the first half of the
millennium that Hari Seldon proposed it would take to make the Second
Galactic Empire, the second half presumably works through a different
set of crises, very different from the first. It was shown in
Foundation how the first Foundation would stagnate if they believed the mentalic one was taking care of them. Of course, there were people who
believed they didn't want mentalic control over their lives when the
empire was finally established.
So we come to a crisis that Hari Seldon
didn't predict. The First Foundationers keep insisting that Seldon
couldn't have predicted the incredible rate of technological advance,
and because of that, they could establish their empire in half the time
he predicted. I disagree, and believe his Plan would have shown him what
sort of advances were likely under the hugely successful growth of
Unfortunately, the part of the story
dealing with Golan Trevize and Janov Pelorat was rather tiresome, as it
focused almost exclusively on presenting the technology to the
uninitiated Pelorat, and thus the readers. I have found that all of
Asimov's later books are "talky". People reason out every angle of a
situation, down to the preposterous. That continues (or did it start?)
here between these two characters, as they head out into space aboard a
more than state-of-the-art spaceship of the Foundation. They even
describe relativity and how Jumps can bend the rules.
Trevize contended that the Seldon Plan
was meaningless, because it was so perfectly preserved after being
catastrophically derailed by the Mule two centuries earlier. Trevize was
exiled from Terminus after the latest Seldon Crisis, because the Mayor
of Terminus (the leader of the Foundation Federation) believed the
Second Foundation still existed, and Trevize felt they were still
guiding the Plan. She used him as her "lightning rod", to draw them out
so she could use the improved mentalic shield (the basis of which was
inspired by the static device in Second Foundation) to overwhelm them
with her mighty warships. The more interesting part of this plot was the
search for Earth, of which Pelorat is an expert academic. The search
takes them to Sayshell, a region in which the planet Gaia exists, and
Gaia means Earth in an "ancient" language. They are conveniently
directed toward Gaia and urged not to go there, which of course spurs
Trevize to take the journey.
The more interesting part of the book
takes place among the Second Foundation, where Speaker Stor Gendibal
also believed the Seldon Plan was meaningless, because there was not a
single event beyond the control of the Plan, and the Second Foundation
never had that kind of control. This is really the first book that
investigates what it is to be part of the Second Foundation, that they
actually have a culture, and it is very human in spite of being more
intimate because of the ability to share thoughts. I quite liked it,
even though I disagree with their purpose to an extent. The idea of
having everything planned out is disturbing to me, but at least it still
allows for some free will, to a certain point. It would be just another
form of control, like police. But seeing how human they can be, with
politics and petty disputes among even Speakers, I wonder how far they
would go to ensure their version of peace through their control.
Gendibal's encounter with the farmwoman
Sure Novi best showed their culture, as Gendibal realized how arrogant
the Second Foundation was becoming. I liked his thoughts on how he would
change the nature of the Second Foundation when he became First Speaker,
especially on treating others who didn't have mental powers, and on
advancing technology. That he could be in awe of the Foundation
spaceship shows how reclusive the group who planned to control the
galaxy had become.
Gendibal is also sent in his form of
exile, to investigate Trevize and find the power that he perceives is
guiding the Second Foundation guide the Seldon Plan. Eventually, he
arrives in the Sayshell sector at the same time as the Mayor with her
warships, and Trevize, who approaches Gaia warily. There the conflict is
held on the cusp of victory for everybody, as Gendibal holds the Mayor
at bay even with her mental shield, but without enough power to remove
her as a threat. I liked how the Mayor had made her deductions. At
first, I wondered how she could possibly know that the Second Foundation
was on Trantor. It seemed like overly convenient plotting. However, she
simply had to trace the origin of Gendibal's ship, as he was careless
enough through overconfidence not to cover his tracks.
What awaits them all at Gaia is scarier
than anything. If the Second Foundation wished to rule peacefully
through a gentle manipulation here and there, they would still offer much free
will, even though mankind's destiny would be carefully planned. Gaia
plans to create Galaxia, a galactic organism of humanity. Where free
will is necessary, it is granted, but always within the greater good.
For all intents and purposes, humanity would lose individual identity.
That is an interesting concept on the evolution of humans, and I could
almost embrace the idea, except that the demonstration of how it
actually works is horrible.
Bliss was a terrible character, and
terribly written. "Men have died for this body"? That is never
explained. She could probably stand to lose a few pounds in her behind?
Only woman are treated as such in Asimov's books. She flippantly says
that she was destined to be some sort of space station technician
because it was necessary, but doesn't explain why. It's the
unquestioning and blind obedience without even the knowledge of why she
is doing what she is doing that really bothers me. "I don't need to know
therefore I am not interested in knowing" is not acceptable to me.
Having a place and knowing that place in society is fine, but not having
the desire to understand why strips away the fundamental aspect of being
Still, I liked Trevize's decision to
choose Galaxia over the physical force of the Foundation, or the mental
force of the Second Foundation, for exactly the reasons he gave: this
choice was reversible, if necessary, while the other two were not.
Something better could come along, and Galaxia would take generations to
complete, so presumably they could stop at any time, especially since
they are so sensitive to the "needs of the many", having based their
existence on the Three Laws of Robotics as interpreted by R. Daneel
Olivaw and R. Giskard back in Robots and Empire. Gaia is obviously the
"other plan" Daneel left to oversee in
Forward the Foundation, only it
had been set up for millennia earlier than I thought, as its settlement predated even Trantor's rise to power.
Gendibal had discovered that all
references to Earth had been removed from Trantor's library, which would
eventually lead to the next Foundation novel: Foundation and Earth. For
now, Trevize and Pelorat remain on Gaia, even after Trevize accused
Bliss of being a robot, quietly overseeing humanity.
This was quite an enjoyable novel,
despite the excessive talkiness and despite Bliss. I imagine it could
have been outstanding when it was first published, after such a long
time without a Foundation novel. My favorite parts dealt with the
culture of Terminus and Trantor, as well as the limited exposure we got
of Sayshell, with primitive superstitions about Gaia. They were right
about one thing, though: The Mule was originally of Gaia, and somehow
escaped the global mind. That means their plan is not foolproof-
especially in a galaxy with quintillions of people in it. There is still
hope for free will!