Second Foundation Groupread, Part I

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!

10 thoughts on “Second Foundation Groupread, Part I

  1. I really liked the Mule in the last book, however, I really started to hate him and his methods in this one. Once he lost his clown persona, my opinion changed completely. And seeing Pritcher’s anger at the end–I realized how upset I would be if someone did that to me.

    I like Arkady quite a bit as well. I’m curious to get to know her and this new plot development more in the next and last section. I can’t believe that it is almost over. I’ve really enjoyed the series.

    1. Arkady’s just awesome. She reminds me a bit of one of my sisters. This readalong is flying by so quickly… I just wish that Asimov would have completed the series, because I’m so curious about how it would have ended.

      1. You should give the book to your sister and ask her if Arkady reminds her of anyone. I never grew up with sisters. I think I missed out some. But now I have a sister-in-law and she’s awesome.

        1. If it was the type of book I thought she’d enjoy then I definitely would, lol… Arkady strikes the perfect balance between being a genius and being a little twit. 😀

  2. I still can’t like the Mule and like him even less. If anything I have grown more disgusted with him. His relationship with Bayta was proof that despite his issues he can have relationships with people who truly care for him without being manipulated to do so. Certainly people with deformities and physical handicaps have much to overcome, but the more I think about the path the Mule has taken the more I realize his true ugliness is inside and am unwilling to give him a pass just because he’s been hurt.

    And I still don’t truly believe you’d find it very benevolent if suddenly you had no free will and were being controlled by someone else, LOL!

    Now as a character I think the Mule is fantastic, but that is because he draws out such interesting emotion and he makes a good bad guy, especially as a comparison to the supposed “good guys” whose methods are every bit as questionable.

    “Mathematical Jedi”…I LOVE that! 🙂

    It certainly is hard at this stage to just jump on board entirely with the Second Foundation given their methods. I certainly enjoyed the mental battle they and the Mule had though. Very intense and interesting.

    Asimov may have done so! His works have definitely been the inspiration for a bunch of things that have come into being, that is for sure.

    1. I guess the reason why I can handle the Mule’s use of his power is because once he’s actually fully in power, that seems to be the only thing that he uses his power for. He controls people to gain their loyalty, but still leaves the basic details of their daily lives up to them rather than micromanaging. I can sympathize with him more than I can with some of the other characters in the book, which is something that I think that Asimov does well. I find myself liking villains and thinking that the heroes can be total jerks, and the whole notion of good vs. evil doesn’t really apply in any clear manner. Like TBM, I did like Mule a lot better when he was a clown…

  3. This is definitely my favourite so far, especially the confrontation with the Mule and the second Foundationers – it was gripping, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page!
    I really didn’t end up liking the Mule – I think on reflection I’d forgotten about his mutation and how that would have affected his personality so maybe I should be more sympathetic – but, even so, I can’t find it in me to like him!
    I love your jedi comment, very funny.
    Lynn 😀

    1. I found myself forgetting about the Mule’s physical disfigurement, but I felt bad because his mental powers would prohibit him from having a normal relationship with anyone. Even with Bayta, it’s kind of hard to talk as equals if you know what the other person is feeling at any given moment, which means that Mule is doomed to lifelong loneliness (although if he found himself a cute Second Foundation chick then things might have ended differently).

  4. I have such a negative gut-reaction towards The Mule that it has been interesting to hear thoughts from participants who like him. This is why I love group reads!
    I’m not quite as wary of the Second Foundation as others, though. Although not perfect, I still feel as if they have honorable intentions and are seeking power mostly for the good of society. Like you said, they seem to recognize the importance of choice, and they seem to be the best alternative we’ve seen yet.
    I must have missed Seldon’s plan for strict class divisions. Not cool!
    I had similar thoughts about the book-viewer. Such vision he had!

    1. It seemed to me when reading like he was prepping the Second Foundationers to be the ruling overlords over the society set up by the first Foundation. Nothing like driving a civilization to their destiny only to take over with an elite that has the equivalent of superpowers, lol. It sounds neat to have a society based on mental powers, but if the majority of people don’t have those powers, it seems pretty unfair.

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