Today marks the conclusion of the groupread of Asimov’s “The Foundation,” hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Last week we had some great discussions about the first half of the book, which can be found here. During the next few weeks, I’ll also be participating in groupreads of the next two books in the Foundation Trilogy. Feel free to join!
The rest of my post may contain spoilers from the rest of the book. Later in the week, I’ll post a normal spoiler-free review of the novel for anyone who hasn’t been following the discussions.
Salvador Hardin was the first character in the book that we got to spend any significant time with. What are your thoughts on the grande finale of his plotting, scheming and maneuvering to get the Foundation through to the next Seldon crisis?
It was interesting to see the way that his plotting worked out. At first, I suspected a change in leadership similar to the manner in which Hardin himself took over. Instead, Hardin continued to manipulate events to his favor. In the previous section, we had seen Hardin find a way to allow the Foundation to tentatively coexist with Anacreon. In this section, Hardin uses the foundations that he had built during the last Seldon crisis to give The Foundation the upper hand, establishing the dominance of the priests over Anacreon’s secular leaders. I’m also quite pleased that Seldon showed up at the end of it all. I love it when he does that!
What are your thoughts on the way in which control/manipulation to achieve Foundation ends began to shift with The Traders?
Religious power only works to manipulate people until they realize that they’re being manipulated and decide not to put up with it anymore. By the time that Terminus was ready to expand it’s sphere of influence beyond the Four Kingdoms, the Foundation was definitely in need of a new strategy. At the same time, it took someone who was willing to break with tradition in order to implement it, because the leadership tended to cling to tradition, even when it was no longer an effective way of relating to the world. The way that the Foundation progresses reminds me a lot of dialectics… you’ve got one worldview, it’s opposite, and then a major event to shift the balance. I like the direction that things are going thus far, and I loved the characters in the last two sections of the book. The Han Solo types are always appealing!
One of the interesting things about Seldon’s psychohistory is how much one man can actually affect it. In Foundation we see characters like Hardin and Mallow as key figures for positioning things just right to work towards Seldon’s later predictions. Do you see this as a contradiction to what Seldon said about psychohistory at the beginning of our story or part of an overall plan? Discuss.
This was one of the things that I thought about a lot while reading. Even though Seldon based his theory on mob psychology, there always had to be one person who had a bit of nerve paired with a different worldview to manipulate events in the right direction. To an extent, they’re doing it with the knowledge of Seldon’s plan, but at the same time, not every individual who thinks that they have a better idea of how to do things ends up winning; take, for instance, Sermak. It’s intriguing.
Did you see similarities or differences between the way in which Salvador Hardin and Hober Mallow operated and what are your thoughts about this final section of Foundation? Would you have been content as a reader back then with how everything played out?
Hardin and Mallow are similar in that they think outside the box and manipulate events to their advantage. At the same time, I’m inclined to like Mallow better, and I love the way that he spins the trial in his favor. If I’d been reading this back when it was written, I probably would have seen it against a Cold War background, especially the standoff with Anacreon, and I’d probably view Asimov’s Traders and Merchant Princes as representing the US fighting not to be overpowered by the Soviets. Reading today is quite a different experience.
Has your concept/thoughts of what Seldon was trying to do changed at all since the book began?
The more I read, the more I regard Seldon as a genius. I’d expected things to deviate somewhat from his plan, but thus far it hasn’t happened yet. Not a lot, mind you, but just enough to stir things up a bit more than they already are.
Any final thoughts on the story as a whole, its structure, what it did or did not accomplish, how it worked for you, etc.
I’m enjoying this book far more than I thought I would. Last week I was a bit put off by Asimov’s lack of character development. By the time that I got to this week’s sections, I couldn’t put the book down. I’m fully invested in what happens to The Foundation, and the characters have gone off in the direction of the loveable rogue rather than the manipulative politician. I’m excited to read the next two books!
What did everyone else think of the second part of the book?