As I mentioned in my previous posts on Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, I am slowly making my way through the series again in chronological order. I reread the first three books in the publication order (the original trilogy) this month and upon rereading the series, I realized that it is still my favorite science fiction series of all time. I have never read a series that was this mindblowing in terms of the epicness of ideas and imagination. Only the Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s past series) books by Cixin Liu come very close to this series on my favorites list.
The original trilogy has three books – Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation. Out of the these three books, second and third books are my all time favorites. First book is great too but it is a bit slow paced and not as amazing as the other two. So if you read the first book and thought that you were not very impressed, please press on. The third book is the best of the three and the Mule is the most interesting character but he doesn’t appear in the first book. There are a lot of surprises towards the end of the third book and even though I remembered some of the twists from my previous read, I still had forgotten the finer details so ended up getting surprised again while reading this time. Second and third books read like mystery/thrillers and are so fast faced and fascinating to read. After reading these books, I realized how much influence this series had on Star Wars. Sith Lords/Darth Vader were clearly inspired from the Mule and Han Pritcher.
I read these in anticipation of the Apple TV’s adaptation which was very disappointing. They altered the story so much in the TV show that it hardly resembles the original source material. I wish they had stuck to the book more closely. But I am glad I ended up rereading the series because of the show. I had been meaning to read them for so long since I had hardly read any scifi when I read them for the first time. Now that I have read many other scifi books, I appreciate these books even more. I gave the first book 4 stars and the other two books 5 stars, just like I did when I read them for the first time.
The story spans for hundreds of years and it is like a collection of short stories as the main characters keep changing. The story is about the Foundations and not about individual humans so there is really no necessity for character or relationship building of any sort. People who do not like this series keep complaining about characters. This series is about Seldon using psychohistory to predict the downfall of a galactic empire and how he tries to save the falling empire from ruin and destruction by making sure that a new second empire gets established so that people do not have to suffer for long. Does Seldon’s plan work? or Does it fail? Are the two Foundations set up by him able to establish a new empire? The location of first Foundation is well known but nobody knows where the Second Foundation was established. Does a second Foundation indeed exist? If so, where does it exist? This is what the series is all about and it is not about individual humans or their lives. I find the series extremely interesting and anyone who finds history/science/mathematics/probability/sociology etc fascinating will end up loving this series.
** Spoilers for the books ahead **
There are so many characters and stories that appear in these three books. I thought I will list all the events that happen in the books –
- Gaal Dornick from Synnax comes to Trantor and meets Hari Seldon who invented Psychohistory and using it, predicts the downfall of the galactic empire. The first episode of the Apple’s TV show adapted this first story very well. After that, it went downhill. All the scientists are moved to the periphery, to a planet called Terminus.
- Story shifts to Terminus which is the first Foundation. The scientists there are tasked with the creation of an encyclopedia. Lewis Pirenne is the lead encyclopedist on the planet. Salvor Hardin ends up becoming mayor of the Terminus and solves the first Seldon Crisis with a planet called Anacreon which tries to attack Terminus. The first crisis is averted through the influence of a religion centered around science and technology. Terminus has monopoly on atomic power knowledge of which is lost in the other planets along with other scientific knowledge.
- Terminus established dominance over other planets through trading and spreading its religion. Hober Mallow, the master trader ends up becoming the mayor of Terminus and he advances Terminus through only trade without religion. Merchant princes and traders become stronger and book 1 ends.
- The empire grows stronger under Cleon II’s rule. Bel Riose, a military governor from Siwanna ends up attacking Foundation. But the emperor grows suspicious of Riose’s intentions and the Foundation ends up winning the war. At this point in time, Foundation is essentially undefeatable.
- Traders in other planets are rebelling against Foundation’s rule. Bayta and Toran visit planet Kalgan in order to meet a mutant called the Mule who just won the planet from a warlord who surrendered his planet without a fight where they meet Captain Han Pritcher. They end up saving Mule’s Clown/court fool and take him back to Terminus. The Mule starts attacking Foundation. The traders who were rebelling against the rulers of Terminus now unite with the Foundation. Their combined forces fight the Mule which results in failure of Seldon’s plan. According to Seldon’s plan, a civil war was supposed to have occured which does not occur since an external unexpected person attacks Foundation.
- Mule defeats Foundation and establishes his own empire which is predicted to not last for long resulting in the dark ages again. Bayta and Toran want to search for Second Foundation in order to defeat the Mule.
- Ebling Mis who is the best psychologist on Terminus accompanies Bayta, Toran and the clown to Trantor to find out the location of second foundation and they visit the Imperial library there. Bayta ends up killing Mis before he reveals Second Foundation’s location. We realize that the fool was indeed Mule himself and book 2 ends.
- The Mule is desperately searching for the Second Foundation. We also see chapters about Second Foundation in this book which I found to be most fascinating. What is Second Foundation like? What are people on that planet like and what are they thinking? How are they reacting to the failure of Seldon’s plan? After all, their task was to fix the plan if something fails during the execution of it.
- Bail Channis who is unconverted by the Mule goes in search of Second Foundation with Han Pritcher.They end up at the wrong planet and Mule follows their spaceship and ends up bombing the wrong planet thinking that Second Foundation was established there. First Speaker from Second Foundation appears and defeats Mule. Mule is now converted and he gives up the idea of searching for Second Foundation.
- Even though Mule was defeated, Seldon’s plan needs more changes as the Foundation now knows about Second Foundation’s existence and its power to manipulate human emotions/thoughts. Some people feel threatened by Second Foundation and want to find its location so that it can be destroyed for good. People on First Foundation are also complacent that they have Second Foundation to save them from any trouble so a kind of stagnacy happens there. Second Foundation wants to fix this deviation from Seldon’s plan.
- Arcadia Durrell plays an important role along with Pelleas Anthor who is from Second Foundation. She ends up travelling to Kalgan and then to Trantor where she somehow figures out that the location of the Second Foundation is Terminus itself. Because she has been controlled and her mind was altered, she ends up making her father and everyone on Terminus believe that Terminus is indeed the location of the Second Foundation. They end up sentencing fifty odd pyschohistorians to death and think that Second Foundation no longer exists.
- This is when the explosive ending occurs when we realize that this was a trap setup by Second Foundation. It is located on Trantor and not on Terminus. But since First Foundation is now convinced that Second Foundation no longer exists, Seldon’s plan can continue without any further changes. The deviation in the plan that occured due to the appearance of Mule was fixed and second empire can now be formed without any more changes. The ending just wows you and the way it ends made me want to pick up the next book in the series as soon as possible.
My favorite quote has to be – “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” (which was butchered in the TV show).
Have you read this series? If so, did you like it?