Posts Tagged ‘Foundation Trilogy’

Foundation Trilogy Readalong: Second Foundation

I know we’re a bit late on this one–Japan in the middle was a bit distracting–but to be perfectly honest I felt my attention wandering pretty bad on this one.

Like Foundation and EmpireSecond Foundation consists of two parts, the first taking place a mere five years after the conclusion of the last part of F&E. The Second Foundation (the entity, not the book) has come to the forefront, with everyone obsessed with discovering its location. This book also gives us sections from unknown Second Foundationers throughout as they work to counteract first the Mule, and later the First Foundation, in their efforts.

I think part of why I had a hard time staying connected is that I thought it was a little obvious, especially in the second story, where the Second Foundation was (and, later on, who the First Speaker was) and then I was generally a little annoyed at the red herrings deployed in the later part of the book.

We’ve got a female main character for the second part again, but it’s not as satisfying because the other characters don’t treat her terribly well (she’s only 14) and Asimov himself invalidates everything she does later on. That’s a person pet peeve of mine–I dislike ineffective main characters, even if they make sense from a plot perspective.

The whole series is a bit interesting from the standpoint of the fact that it seems like Asimov didn’t really plan the whole thing out, and just added things as they made sense as he went along. I swear the Second Foundation was not mentioned in the first book.

From a plot standpoint, I don’t understand why the First Foundation sees the Second Foundation to be such a threat, to the point where they feel that the Second Foundation has to be destroyed. In theory, both foundations are necessary for the completion of the Seldon Plan. Sure, the Mule throws the whole thing off, but I don’t understand why the First Foundation feels so threatened, and why they don’t want to work with the Second Foundation to fix things.

As we come to the end of this readalong, I’d have to say I found the books interesting but not really…hm. They didn’t hit any of my sweet spots. I don’t think I’d recommend them to someone else. At this point, I don’t think I would read the later books, though I do admit that I am a bit curious about how it all turns out.

Well, Squiders, what’s your opinion of Second Foundation and/or the trilogy as a whole? What was your favorite book? (Mine was Foundation.) Anything else to note before we move on?

Not sure what I want to do for the next readalong, so if you have suggestions, let me know.

The Foundation Trilogy Readalong: Foundation and Empire

Moving on in our Foundation readalong, today we’re going to discuss the second book, Foundation and Empire. Last time, with Foundation, I speculated about how Asimov had written the book, and the answer was given to me in a forward that Asimov wrote in my edition of this book. (I have the 1983 version, which has some truly horrific front cover art.)

And essentially, Asimov says that the entire original trilogy was made up of (increasingly longer) short stories, originally published in magazines, which is probably why it reads like it does. Foundation had four stories; Foundation and Empire has two.

And someone remind me–was the Second Foundation mentioned at all in the first book? I feel like it’s suddenly become a fairly major plot point out of nowhere.

So, Foundation and Empire is made up of two distinct stories, two distinct crises. For those who are reading this but not reading along, the basic plot here is that the Galactic Empire was falling apart, and Hari Seldon, who was a psychohistorian (and I am taking an online psychology course, and the professor said something about psychohistory and I did a double-take), uses math to predict the course of human society and to come up with a plan to lower the dark ages between empires from 30,000 years to 1,000 years. And so he engineers a Foundation, which will manage this, though purely through Seldon’s manipulations and predictions.

The first book covers the founding of the Foundation, as well as the first three “Seldon crises.” Society automatically changes so that the Foundation endures and grows in power, according to Seldon’s predictions.

The first half of Foundation and Empire focuses on the fourth Seldon crisis. I found this one a little unsatisfying, honestly, because in previous stories the viewpoint characters were directly working to change society so that the Foundation survived the crisis. The viewpoint character here, though he tries, accomplishes nothing, and the crisis is automatically resolved without him. The only thing that seems to be of note is that this is a direct confrontation between the remains of the Empire and the Foundation. (Hence the name of the book, I assume.)

The second half is more interesting. An external crisis, one that Seldon didn’t account for in his calculations, ruins the whole thing. The Foundation falls. The Empire falls. It sets up nicely for the third book, and I’m interested to see what the Second Foundation is like.

Also of note, in the discussion for Foundation, Ian brought up how sexist the book was. And he was absolutely right. The first book has exactly two women in it, both of who are easily distracted by fashion. In the second half of Foundation and Empire, one of the main viewpoint characters–the most main, I would say–is a woman. And while there are the occasional throw-away comments that kind of made my eye twitch, she’s actually presented quite well, considering the time period (late ’40s for the original short story publication). In fact, she figures out the plot twist, saves the entire thing, and is probably the strongest character in that part of the book. So good on you, Mr. Asimov.

Reading along, Squiders? What did you think of the book? How did Bayta’s characterization strike you?

Discussion for Second Foundation will go up in early May.

Foundation Trilogy Readalong: Foundation

First of all, I’m sorry this is a little later than I said it would be. From here on out, we should be good with a book a month. (Especially because the books are a nice, reasonable length, and fairly readable.)

So! Foundation is the first Asimov book I’ve probably read in at least 10 years, but there is a reason why Asimov is my favorite of the “classic” science fiction authors. To be honest, I’m not sure why I haven’t read the trilogy before, because I went through a definite Asimov phase as a teenager. I even read his collection of fantasy short stories. I don’t recommend that one.

But, onto the book. I really liked it, Squiders. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t read any decent science fiction lately, or if it’s just because Asimov and I get on, or if it was just awesome, or some combination of the three, but I enjoyed the experience.

I’d say stop here if you don’t want to be spoiled, but I really think that, after 50 years, you don’t get a warning anymore.

I also thought it was interesting how the book was set up, with the time jumps. I mean, I guess I should have expected them, because I’ve read things like I, Robot and Bicentennial Man, but I honestly went into the trilogy having absolutely no idea what the books were about. Apparently the parts of the trilogy were originally a series of short stories, so it makes sense in retrospect.

Also, Asimov has always been quite good at developing characters in a short period of time. A lot of older scifi is so focused on plot and science that the characters become unimportant, but that’s not Asimov. So, you know, even though you only get characters for 75 pages, you remember them and understand them.

I wonder how it went when he was writing the stories. Did he just start with the one and thought he was done? Or did he lay out all thousand years (and beyond) from the beginning, expecting to slowly dole out the stories as the urge hit him? I almost feel like it might be the first, that he had the first idea, with the psychohistory and Hari Seldon and the founding of the Foundation, because the tone of that part of the story read a little different than the rest.

But it’s rather ingenious, really, how one thing flows into the next, from the intellectual, to the religious, to the capitalist. (Though I admit I was a little skeptical about how quickly and fanatically the religion set in. But not enough to really care about it.) I’m interested to see where we go from here in the next book. After all, we’re only 150 years into the Foundation, and we’ve only had three Seldon crises.

Have you read Foundation, Squiders? What did you think? What’s your favorite Asimov story, or who’s your favorite “classic” scifi author?

We’ll discuss Foundation and Empire on April 8.

The Foundation Trilogy Readalong, ROW80 Check-in, and Miscellany

Good afternoon, Squiders. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover here today, so we’d better get cracking.

But, first, a public service announcement: My friend’s daughter is missing and was last seen on Tuesday in Tuscon, AZ. Please keep an eye out for her and let the authorities know if you have any information.

It’s time to start our first readalong of the year, Squiders! And in making a drastic move away from the YA fantasy readalongs we’ve been doing, we’re going to do Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation trilogy. I’m excited–I own most of the books but have never gotten a chance to read them. We’ll do one book a month, and change the schedule as necessary. We’ll start with the original trilogy, and then, if we’re having a good time, we might delve into the other four books which Asimov wrote later. So if you want to play, read Foundation by February 18, which is when the discussion post will go up.

In writing news, ROW80 is going well thus far (which is admittedly only a week and a half). Getting a spreadsheet helped immensely. I don’t seem to be able to manage to write every day, so I’ve been writing when I can and just pushing for longer and bigger word counts than my daily. I’ve got just over 6K for the challenge, which looks measly but is over 10% of my goal and more or less on track, so there is that. And I’m over 30K on the draft itself, which is also shiny, though I am not so sure about my pacing.

In random miscellany, apparently my husband’s coworker loved Shards to the point where she is now reading this blog (Hello, husband’s coworker!), which is rather a nice compliment. And I found a lovely video review of Shards as well (warning: bit plot spoiler-y in the middle).

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.