- Isaac Asimov
Publisher: UK – Collins
When the First Foundation was conquered by a force Seldon had not foreseen - the overwhelming power of a single individual, a mutant called the Mule - the second Foundation was forced to reveal its existence and, infinitely worse, a portion of its power. One man understood the shifting patterns of the inhabited cosmos. This was Hari Seldon, the last great scientist of the First Empire. The mathematics of psychohistory enabled Seldon to predict the collapse of the Empire and the onset of an era of chaos and war. To restore civilization in the shortest possible time, Seldon set up two Foundations. The First was established on Terminus in the full daylight of publicity. But the Second, "at the other end of the galaxy", took shape behind a veil of total silence. Because the Second Foundation guards the laws of psychohistory, which are valid only so long as they remain secret. So far the second Foundation's location, its most closely guarded secret of all, has been kept hidden. The Mule and the remnants of the First Foundation will do anything to discover it. This is the story of the Second Foundation.
When I reviewed Foundation, I said that the book was full of ideas but had little character or plot development. How far we’ve come! Second Foundation is the search for a mystery, a shadowy second foundation set up in case anything was to happen to the first. This search is split into with the story picking up on The Mule’s continuing search, thwarted at the end of the Foundation and Empire but still ongoing. In his search he sends ships across the stars looking for the only people who could conceivably stop his conquest of the galaxy. The second part, my favourite, was set some years after the Mule’s death when the original Foundation struggles to return the original Seldon Plan – this element introduces an intelligent but precocious teenager, Arcadia who thinks she can outwit the Second Foundation. For the first time while reading this series I came to care about at character rather than just admiring the ideas. Arcadia is sharp, over confident but retains an innocence and naiveté that is appealing. Her adventures and revelations were exciting and surprising and I actually cared about what happened to her.
The writing style seemed different to be as well, moving from drier fact based telling to more event orientated complete with twists and turns. There were a number of revelations about the nature and location of the Second Foundation, some of which I was able to guess and some I wasn’t. There is a deep psychological game played between the characters and again with the readers as to the location and nature of the Second Foundation and even if the Seldon plan was still valid or not. This makes it almost into a mystery as well for the reader.
Having finished the original Foundation trilogy I can see why these books are classics and still relevant today nearly 60 years after they were first written. There are so many ideas and society analysis that if you think too much it could give you a headache! At the same time it’s an interesting adventure looking at how predictable or not people are as a group. These books are the very definition of intelligent science fiction and worth a read if you fancy some deep thoughts and intriguing cultural development.
Recommended for fans of Orson Scott Card and Larry Niven. 8 out 10