Am rereading these after 30+ years. The first still has the compelling ideas of psychohistory, although less developed than I had remembered, or would have liked. To Azimov's credit, the character of the Mule was still vivid enough in my memory that the second book lost most of its tension.
What I had forgotten was just how virulently misogynist and patriarchal these books are - it is kind of embarrassing given that he came of age when women had been working in factories, serving in war, and holding families together on their own. Their depiction as silly, vain, and useless seems adolescent at best. I remembered Robert A. Heinlein
being a militaristic jerk, but had a more romantic image of Azimov. Re-reading this series has altered that view. E.g., in Azimov's future, society has somehow become race-less (if not all-white), nicely matching the purely decorative role for women.
Having recently re-read City
, and considering that a young Azimov should have read Vannevar Bush
, it is also embarrassing how quaint is his depiction of a galactic future where messages are still passed on paper, all history is on microfilm and in physical libraries, etc. That everyone smokes all the time is just silly. Asimov says he read Clifford D. Simak
, and yet somehow completely missed his remarkable prescience in areas of technology, communications, media, social evolution, etc.
To call this a trilogy is disingenuous - it would have been only a moderately long novel as one, and each part would be completely unsatisfying on its own.
All in all, disappointing as a re-read (I changed from 5 stars in my memory to just 3 now). There are still some great ideas in here, but maybe you just have to be very young, and enthralled with space to overlook the faults.