So this is a bit later in the day than I’d intended, but I spent a good portion of the weekend playing catch-up with my classes since my textbooks finally arrived. I’m sleep deprived and mildly incoherent. Fun times!
Welcome to the conclusion of the Foundation and Empire Groupread. Last week’s discussion can be found here.
This post will contain spoilers. I’ll be posting a spoiler-free review sometime later in the week for anyone who hasn’t read the book.
1. While it didn’t break new ground, Asimov did have a female character who played a major role in this second half of the book. What are your thoughts on how Asimov portrayed Bayta?
I’m a big fan of Bayta. She’s intelligent, determined, and knows when shooting someone is the correct course of action.
2. Now that you know the Mule’s identity, were you surprised or had you figured it out along the way? If you did figure it out, how did that affect your reading of the book?
When I was reading this section, I guessed the Mule’s identity early on. His absence was so conspicuous that I guessed that he had to be the clown, especially after a certain musical performance. However, I had thought that Bayta shooting Mis at first was a manifestation of the fact that the Mule had taken over her emotions. I hadn’t guessed that she would have been the only one to escape.
3. In previous posts we discussed the role individuals seemed to have in the unfolding of Seldon’s plan. How do you feel about the issue now that we’ve seen an individual derail Seldon’s plans?
I almost want to say that they deserved it. Let’s face it, the Foundation guys were a bit obnoxious in this section, and there was way too much stagnation and squabbling going on. So it was the Mule instead of the Traders… and I was okay with that. I think that it’s a neat twist to show how an outside force can change Seldon’s plan. I don’t think that the fact that the Mule was an individual was important; what was important was that he could change the rules of social/group behavior, which is what allowed him to take over in the first place.
4. Did it surprise you in the end that the Mule was allowed to get away? Did Asimov make you feel any pity or empathy for the Mule, either as the clown and/or when you discovered he was the Mule?
You know… I like the Mule. He’s mostly harmless. He doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone, and his conquest was largely bloodless. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if he did succeed, if he could learn when to stop with his emotional manipulation and let people live their own lives. We’d see a new empire, surprisingly free of obstacles and bloodshed. I’d be upset about a dynasty though; that could go the wrong way very quickly. I felt bad for the Mule, because it must have been lonely knowing that nobody except for Bayta liked him for who he was. I’m glad he got away in the end. I didn’t want to see Bayta have to kill someone whom she’d befriended. It would feel like a betrayal.
5. How do you feel this story compared to all the other stories that have made up the two Foundation novels we’ve read?
This was my favorite section thus far. It was so interesting! I enjoyed having a likable villain who was able to display the limitations of Seldon’s plan. I’m also glad that Asimov is finally starting to give us more time with the characters; while I like short stories, I think that the longer ones work a bit better at this point in the Foundation’s history.
6. What final thoughts do you have about Foundation and Empire?
I’m incredibly curious about the Second Foundation. I liked hearing Mis’s theories about it, and I want to know where it’s hidden and what it’s like. I also thought it was neat to see the ruins of Trantor; up until this point, the Empire was stagnating but still hanging on. Now we’re finally seeing Seldon’s predictions in full motion at the very same time as his predictions for the Foundation were disturbed by an outside force.
Feel free to join us for the groupread of “Second Foundation,” which we will be starting next week!