Second Foundation Groupread, Part II

This week marks the conclusion of the Second Foundation groupread (hosted by Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings).  Time certainly has flown!

The following post/discussion will contain spoilers.  I’ll be posting a spoiler-free review of Second Foundation later in the week for anyone who hasn’t been following along.
1.  Now that the trilogy is over, discuss your feelings on Asimov’s portrayal of female characters?

Asimov did a pretty good job with his female characters.  The first book in the trilogy didn’t have any relevant female characters, but the second two books made up for it.  Bayta was awesome, and I found Arkady’s precociousness amusing.  I was a bit sad though to learn that Arkady was a tool of the Second Foundation; I liked her better before I knew that.  I was impressed that Asimov wrote Callia as a Second Foundation agent–it was something that I didn’t expect, especially since I thought that she was such a ditz at the beginning of this section.

2.  After all the back and forth mind control of the first part of Second Foundation, what was your state of mind reading this second section of the book?  Were you suspicious of everyone? Did you figure things out? Were you just going along for the ride?

I was just going along for the ride.  I figured that the Second Foundation was up to something, but I was a bit disappointed when their plan succeeded.  The more I see of the Second Foundation’s methods, the more I keep hoping that they will fail.

3.  Throughout the three novels we were shown a couple of versions of Trantor.  Which is more appealing to you? Which would you rather visit?

I’d like to have seen Trantor in its imperial glory.  It’s interesting to see how the planet changes over the course of several hundred years.  I like the way that the library is preserved despite the upheavals.

4.  How have your thoughts about Hari Seldon, his plan, and either or both Foundations changed, or not, during the course of these three novels?

Seldon is a genius, but at the same time, his plan is gambling with real people’s lives.  I don’t like the way that the Second Foundationers manipulate people; at least the Mule was honest about it when he did it.

5.  What, if anything, surprised you in this last half of the book?  How do you feel Second Foundation held up compared to the other two books in the trilogy?

I was surprised that the Second Foundation was located on Trantor.  My guess was that it was on Terminus, so it was neat to see the additional twist.  Second Foundation was my favorite book in the trilogy.

6.  Did any themes stand out for you in this series?  What are you taking away from the experience of reading the Foundation trilogy?

I enjoyed the way that Asimov’s characters blurred the line between good and evil.  It was very realistic.  I enjoyed seeing Seldon’s plan unfold, all the while questioning the role of the individual versus mob psychology.  Even though Seldon’s plan doesn’t take individuals into account, each major Seldon crisis was addressed by an individual.  By the end of Second Foundation, I’m wondering whether those individuals acted of their own free will or were merely puppets of the Second Foundation.

I loved reading the Foundation series with everyone!  I probably wouldn’t have picked it out on my own, but I ended up enjoying it tremendously.  It’s a great series, and I find myself wishing that Asimov would have completed it.

Comments make me happy! Please feel free to leave a reply.

17 comments

  1. It’s funny, but I forgot to even mention Lady Callia – she had a great role – literally playing a role! Strangely, even though she was an expert second Foundation woman and was in actual fact using her mind control techniques I find myself much more forgiving of her – I don’t know why, and I don’t think it’s because she’s a female. I think I had sympathy with her because I thought she was helping to rescue Arkady but in actual fact that was even more of her scheming. I can’t put my finger on why I find her manipulation not as bad somehow??
    Lynn 😀

    1. I think it might just be because she seems so nice. The role she’s playing is dumb but loveable, and she does seem to genuinely care about Arkady even though she’s also dictating her life.

    1. Indeed it was! I wasn’t happy with the Arkady twist… I wanted so much for her to be her own person and to actually stand a chance of figuring out the Second Foundation’s mysteries on her own.

      1. I think the Arkady twist was my only disappointment with his twists. Not that I can remember them all. The Callia twist was perfect since she played the stupid blond bit perfectly. And then Arkady was this precocious teen that I loved and then she was another tool for the Second Foundation but not in a fun way like Callia.

        1. Agreed–even the Mule didn’t make me upset like Arkady did… I think that the mind control is more upsetting when it’s done to a child.

  2. You’re probably right – it was such a great role for Callia – everybody just thought she was this spoilt, plaything with nothing between her ears and she was playing them! I liked that she looked after Arkady. I felt really bad for Arkady at the end though having been used all along. Does that affect her personality? Need to think about that.
    Lynn 😀

    1. I really began to question my earlier admiration for Arkady when I found out. The fact that they’d practically bred her to play that role reminded me of the creepy Bene Gesserit in Dune.

  3. The end reveal doesn’t really affect my liking of Arkady. I feel sorry for her, of course, but I still believe that much of what we see, other than a few implanted ideas, is Arkady being Arkady. You can see the seeds of Bayta in her. After reading this I wish this group had time to sit down and group read a few other classic SF stories that I think have equally interesting female characters–Podkayne of Mars and the short story The Menace From Earth by Robert A. Heinlein come to mind. As does Scalzi’s contemporary novel Zoe’s Tale. It would be interesting to get the female perspective on all these teenage female characters written by men.

    I think it would be a mistake to think that the Second Foundationers don’t care or are evilly manipulative, yet at the same time you cannot help but be left with an icky feeling about manipulation at all. The aims of Seldon’s plan all along was to preserve knowledge and bring about the quick rise of the next Empire, which is good, but the price being paid by various individuals seems so unfair. Like you I cannot help but go back and think that either the individuals involved in the Seldon crises were mind controlled or, more likely, that they were all Second Foundation agents all along. I didn’t change my feelings about wanting the Foundation to win out because the whole premise was that it was this or many years of barbarism and decline, but the strength of this series, or one of them, is that Asimov makes you think about the means of things and you cannot walk away feeling happy about how things are accomplished.

    Lady Callia was a surprise, and a pleasant one. I was glad Asimov pulled a fast one like that with her character. It made her so much more interesting.

    1. To me I felt that the price of the Second Galactic Empire was too high. It bothered me the way that the Second Foundation manipulated people without their knowledge and consent to work toward a potential future. While Seldon’s plan itself is conceptually intriguing, I found myself strongly disliking the methods by which it was put into action. I felt each person’s character was called into question because it might not really have been theirs all along…

      Overall, I loved this series. I like the way that Asimov made us think of all of these things and to question everything he told us from the first books as we continued reading.

      1. I don’t think anyone could help but dislike the methods the Second Foundation people were using, which I certainly think was part of the point Asimov was trying to convey. It is a really interesting look at the workings of the world, because you have to know that politics the world over involve the few making choices for the many which for most people turn out to be okay but for some individuals (who collectively add up to many people) the decisions are quite detrimental. Much more thought provoking experience this second time through the book.

    2. I’ll have to look into the Heilein and Scalzi’s books. It is too bad we couldn’t read them with this series. It would have made for an interesting discussion.

  4. I still like Arkady as a character but I was disappointed that the Second Foundation had gotten to her!

    And like you mentioned, was anyone acting on their own free will, you’re right in wondering because now I wonder about Bayta, if she really did shoot Ebling Mis because of a choice she made on her own or if it was the Second Foundation. So many questions!

    1. I wondered about characters even in the first book, because it seems like their decisions happened after getting an idea in a flash that resembles the descriptions of the Second Foundation using their mind control. It definitely makes the first two books way more interesting to think back on.