Jared Millet's Reviews > Foundation and Empire

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
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's review
Apr 23, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, far-future, short-stories, golden-age-sf, re-read
Read in October, 1983

(2013 Asimov re-read, book 3)

Life and circumstances may have derailed my original intention to re-read tons of Asimov over the summer, but damned if I’m not going to at least get through the Foundation trilogy.

Foundation and Empire does just what it says on the tin, and marks the point in the story where Asimov throws a big old monkey-wrench into the gears of Hari Seldon’s master plan for the future, probably sensing (and rightly so) that predestination can only take you so far before it gets boring. The second volume in the trilogy contains two longer novellas (as opposed to the multiple short stories of book 1) that focus on the Foundation’s encounter with not one, but two empires – the last gasp of the Old and the sudden, unexpected new Empire of the Mule. In the former, the inevitable Sweep of History wipes the threat of the dying Galactic Empire off the board despite the futile efforts of the story’s players. In the next half, things get a little hairy as the Foundation runs into something that Seldon’s psychohistory could never have predicted – a genetic mutation that changes the rules of the political-historical game.

Once again, Asimov’s ideas take center precedence over his characters, but his characters are more than simple mouthpieces to spout theories (a common failing of most of Asimov’s contemporaries). They fare better here than in Pebble in the Sky , though F&E does share that book’s unfortunate lack of a narrative through-line. Introducing the Mule and undermining the basic premise of the series – that an individual cannot affect the tide of human history – was certainly a gamble on Asimov’s part, but it paid off by preventing the series from falling into formula, removing the “security blanket” of the Seldon Plan, and letting book 2 end on an existential cliffhanger for the Foundation and the whole of human civilization.

Seriously, you’d have to wait thirty years for Dune to come back around to this level of High Concept.
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Reading Progress

06/20/2013 marked as: currently-reading
08/19/2013 marked as: read

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