Series: Foundation #3
Published: 1953 Genres: Science Fiction
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Over the past couple months I’ve been participating in a groupread of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy with a group of other bloggers. As we finish each book, I like to take the time to post a regular spoiler-free review for anyone who hasn’t been following along with the discussions.
“Second Foundation” is the third book in the Foundation Trilogy, even though the title might suggest otherwise. In the first two books, we saw the psychohistorian Hari Seldon predict the fall of the Galactic Empire. In order to prevent the galaxy from falling into a 30,000 year dark age, he devises a plan to establish a Second Galactic Empire in only a thousand years. Seldon recruits the brightest scientific minds in the galaxy and establishes two Foundations, one on each end of the galaxy…
Up until this point in the story, the Second Foundation was largely unknown. Many people from the Foundation didn’t even believe in its existence. However, now that the Foundation has been conquered by a mutant called the Mule, the Second Foundation provides a last-ditch hope in the realization of Seldon’s plan. This then begs the question–where exactly is the Second Foundation, and is it strong enough to oppose a mutant who is able to exercise mind control against his opponents?
Most trilogies start out with a strong book and then tend to wither out. Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy is the opposite, with a story that gets better and better with each installment.
One of the greatest strengths of the story lies in the moral ambiguity of the characters–we support the Foundation because Asimov tells us to, while at the same time we question the methods by which the protagonists gain power and fight oppression. The fact that our characters are neither good nor evil adds a level of complexity to the scheming and manipulations of the guardians of Seldon’s plan.
I was also impressed that Asimov wrote such strong female characters in “Second Foundation.” He was ahead of his time when crafting characters such as Arkady and Lady Callia, to the point that I was surprised by the roles that each of them played within the story.
Overall, I’d highly recommend the Foundation Trilogy to anyone interested in reading some excellent classic science fiction.
As the Foundation Trilogy won a Hugo Award in 1966 as the Best All-Time Series, I will be including this book in the Award Winning Books Reading Challenge hosted by Gathering Books. It also counts toward the Speculative Fiction Challenge hosted by Baffled Books.