Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Index

FOUNDATION'S EDGE

A novel by Isaac Asimov (1982, Bantam Spectra)
Book 1 of the Foundation sequels

A Foundation councilman is exiled to find the Second Foundation, disguising his search by looking for the ancient home of humanity: Earth.

 

 

Read June 21st to July 5th, 2007 for the third time  
    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 Second 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 Terminus' power.

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 human.

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!

 

 

Also read July 21st to 28th, 1994 for the second time  
   

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