||Another amazing Foundation novel. I
think the amazement comes because the book is written so simply, yet
imparts a story that is larger than it appears.
The writing has evolved since the first
Foundation novel. Through
Foundation and Empire, the
narrator took a more active role, and here, there is actually much
tongue-in-cheek narrative. It was quite fun, actually.
The story actually unfolds quite
simply. In general, the Second Foundation, which needs to remain secret,
tricks first the Mule, and then the First Foundation into "discovering"
In the first part of the book, the Mule
sends Han Pritcher out on several searches toward the "other end of the
galaxy", which is where Hari Seldon hinted that it lay, but to no avail.
Han Pritcher, of course, was the last Foundation Lieutenant to be
converted by the Mule. He resents the fact that he was converted, but the
thought of resenting the Mule makes him avoid those thoughts. I liked
the introspection that Pritcher does in this book. He is biased, of
course, towards the Mule, but he doesn't think that he feels any
different, and he wonders if his judgment has actually been biased, as
the Mule and the other main character, Bail Channis, say it has.
Bail Channis is "unconverted", and is
thus ordered by the Mule to use his unbiased mind to help Pritcher find
the Second Foundation. As he goes straight to a planet that appears to
be "star's end", the other hint that Hari Seldon gave about the Second
Foundation's location, both the Mule and Pritcher figure out that he
must be from the Second Foundation himself.
The assertion that the Second
Foundation doesn't exist is refuted by the Mule, who can tell when some
of his people have been touched by some mental power other than his own.
The Mule, of course, followed Channis to his destination, together with
a fleet of warships, which destroyed the surface of the planet of
Tazenda, leaders of the small colony of planets in the region. It was
the logical place for the Second Foundation to be, if the Mule accepted
Channis' reasoning, but Channis, after losing the mental fight against
the Mule, revealed that the tiny, primitive planet that they landed on
was actually the base of operations.
Of course, neither planet was the true
location, as the First Speaker of the Second Foundation showed up to
alter the Mule's personality in his shock at learning that he had been
The use of "Interludes" between the
Mule chapters was effective only in introducing us to the Second
Foundation, and not much more. They barely said anything, using so many
words. So much philosophy!
In the second part of the book, the
Mule has died, and the Foundation has reestablished itself as authority
over its section of the galaxy. For more than one generation, the
Foundation has been regaining strength, but they are in some ways weaker
than they were before. They know, now, that the Second Foundation is
around to help them get out of real difficulties like the Mule. So they
have become stagnant. They have also developed technology that can
determine when people have been "altered" mentally. The scans are
mandatory for all people in authority.
In order for psychohistory to work, we
know, its mechanism and predictions must be kept secret. So for fifteen
years, the Second Foundation has been implementing a plan that would
restore its secrecy, by allowing the First Foundation to "discover" the
Second. Unlike the plan for the Mule, however, this one would allow the
Foundationers to "destroy" the Second Foundation, in order to restore
their confidence that they were in charge of their destiny.
Arcadia Darell, grandchild of Bayta,
the woman who destroyed the Mule's chance at finding the Second
Foundation in Foundation and Empire, is a very curious girl, who sticks
her head into one too many conversations that she really shouldn't. Her
father is part of a small conspiracy of people who are trying to expose
the Second Foundation and destroy it. After eavesdropping, she stows
away on one of the conspirator's ships to go to the planet Kalgan, seat
of power while the Mule ruled. I liked Arcadia. She thought she was so
smart when she got involved in the plot, but then admitted that she was
in too deep that she didn't know what to do. She managed to get Munn
access to the Mule's palace, but when the First Citizen of the planet
takes an interest in her as a woman, she flees. The message had gone to
the First Citizen that Kalgan was to rule the Second Empire, because of
Arcadia, that he launched a war against the Foundation.
During the war, Arcadia fled to
Trantor, her birth-world, and home of Preem Palver, master farmer.
I liked the security grid at the spaceport; a really cool idea. Arcadia maneuvers all of these people, although we learn later that it
was Arcadia all along who was maneuvered. For Preem Palver is the latest
First Speaker of the Second Foundation, and it has come to him to
implement the end of their plan. We learn early on that the plan has a
large chance of failing, but it is the only plan that they have to get
the Seldon Plan back on track after it was derailed by the Mule.
I liked the way that the plan was set
up. It is too complicated to go into detail, but everything makes sense,
and is presented very clearly. The best part was the way they made the
"tamper plateau" in people's mind-scans to easy for the Foundationers to find, so that they
must conclude that this was the way to detect people who had been
controlled. But their control was much finer than that; they just needed
a way to convince the conspirators that they could be detected. Arcadia
was a special case. She was born on Trantor, and "tampered" with as soon
as she was born -so her brain scans would never find a difference, even
with the best resolution detectors,
because she had always been that way!
My least favorite part of the book was
the interpretation of the Seldon Plan by the First Speaker and his
student. I don't know how Seldon could conceive that the Second Empire
would set up for rule by mentalics. From their point of view, of course,
it makes sense. I don't see how in the following five hundred years,
however, the nature of humanity could be changed. If they would resent
rule by the Second Foundation now, and Seldon's plan assumes that
humanity stays the same, then they would resent rule by the mentalics at
a later date, too. On the other hand, I would love to have read a story
or series of stories dealing with the beginning of the Second Imperium,
after the Seldon Plan had been fulfilled. I understand that the "Second
Foundation Trilogy" could deal with this, but being written by other
authors, I am not interested in reading them at this moment.
I was also not convinced by Anthor's
confession. He gave up too easily, even after being assaulted by the
static field newly invented by Arcadia's father. As Dr. Darell
suspected, the solution was too easy. But since Arcadia, who revealed
that "a circle has no end", thus locating the Second Foundation on
Terminus, showed no difference in her brain scan, he had to accept the
Of course, the answer to the riddle of
Star's End and "the other end of the galaxy" is Trantor. All paths lead
to Trantor (instead of Rome), revealing it to be Star's End. And the
opposite of the outside of the galaxy is the inside, where Trantor was
located. We have waited a book and a half to find that out, and I wonder
how many people skipped ahead to find the real answer, to enjoy the
story better because of it. I don't think I did that the first time I
read this trilogy, but I don't
recall. I didn't need to this time, because the revelation was such a
huge one (hence Ebling Mis's surprise in
Foundation and Empire) that I
couldn't forget. Of course, anyone having read
Forward the Foundation
would know the answer, as well.
Only two sequels were written to the
Foundation Trilogy, and I look forward to rereading them soon, as well.