Welcome to the first half of the groupread of Second Foundation, which is a part of The 2012 Science Fiction Experience hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Over the past month, we’ve been working our way through Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, which won the 1966 Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series. Thus far, “Second Foundation” is my favorite in the trilogy!
From this point forward there may be spoilers. I’ll post a spoiler-free review for anyone who hasn’t been reading along at the end of the groupread.
1. How have your perceptions of the Mule and his form of governing grown or changed, or not, after spending more time with him in this novel?
I still like the Mule. I think I’m more impressed with him the more that I see him; he’s intelligent and manipulative, but at the same time I enjoyed the way that he handled his encounters with Bail. Even though I was rooting for the Second Foundationers, I see the Mule as a benevolent dictator who is mostly harmless. I also feel bad for him, as his mutant condition dooms him to eternal loneliness.
2. Having finally gotten a glimpse into the mysterious Second Foundation, what are your feelings/thoughts about this group and their methods (as revealed thus far).
I want to know so much more about the Second Foundation. Their telepathic communication intrigues me, as well as the way that they continue to update Seldon’s plan to conform to current circumstances. They remind me a bit of mathematical Jedi. Even though they’re portrayed as the “good guys,” their motives and methods aren’t entirely clean, and they’re just as willing to use mind control to achieve their own ends as the Mule. At the same time, it appears that at least with the Second Foundationers, the mind control occurs on a purely voluntary basis based on a commitment to their ideal society. Unfortunately, I felt a wee bit less sympathetic when I found out that they were grooming themselves to be powerful overlords.
3. Has your understanding of the Seldon Plan changed at all with the revelations about the plan and the Second Foundationers near the end of this first part of our reading? Looking back does it alter any ideas you had about Seldon and his predictions?
At first I thought of Hari Seldon as a bit of a wise Dumbledore-like figure. In the first two books, I completely approved of him, even though sometimes he had a bit of a Messianic complex. Seeing the full complexity of his plan makes me appreciate his genius even more, but at the same time I don’t approve of the strict class division that will be present in his ultimate society between those who have mental powers and those who do not.
4. A simple one: How did you feel the first part of Second Foundation held up in comparison to the sections we’ve previously read?
This was my favorite section thus far. I found the idea of the Second Foundation to be brilliant, and I loved the mental chess between the Mule and the Second Foundationers. It was a pleasure to read.
5. It is perhaps not surprising that Asimov’s second important female character in the trilogy would be a direct descendent of the first. What do you think of young Arcadia “Arkady” Darell?
She’s awesome. Arkady can be a little twit, but at the same time she’s very intelligent and is capable of far more than people give her credit for. I loved the dialogue she had when a man tried to climb in her window; it was impudent, impertinent, and utterly unexpected.
One other thing that I noticed in this section–
Her lips tightened as she thought of her father looking up from his book-viewer just long enough to say, “But if you’re going to pretend you’re nineteen, Arcadia, what will you do when you’re twenty-five and all of the boys think you’re thirty?”
Did Asimov just predict the Kindle?
See everyone next week for discussions on the second half of the book!