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The ending of the original classic Foundation Trilogy
on April 29, 2003
By the time you get to "Second Foundation" the final volume in the original Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, there is no real need to keep on with the effort to persuade you to keep on reading. Instead it would be more beneficial to look at the original trilogy as a whole and consider why it stands out as one of the greatest in the realm of Science Fiction & Fantasy.
Simply compare the Foundation Trilogy with the two other, admittedly more popular, trilogies: "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars." In the former it is established that the One Ring has to be destroyed and from that point on Tolkienï's story is devoted to getting that accomplished and trying to return peace to Middle Earth. In the latter it becomes clear at the end of the first film (of the original trilogy) that the story will end when Luke Skywalker kills Darth Vader at the end of the third film, which means that Darth will have to defeat Luke at the end of the second. That is indeed what happens, although George Lucas did throw a big twist into the picture.
In comparison the genius of the Foundation Trilogy is that the three volumes are so different. "Foundation" establishes the theory and practice of psychohistory, as Hari Seldon's master plan for reducing the inevitable barbarism of the time between galactic empires to a single millennium. But then "Foundation and Empire" finds the plan disrupted by the threat of the genetic mutant the Mule, and the careful progression of the first novel is replaced by a crisis that is an unforeseen Seldon Crisis. However, with "Second Foundation" there is a new agenda, as both the Foundation and the Mule search for the location of the titular entity. The purpose of the hidden Second Foundation is to protect the first, but the members of the original Foundation do not like the idea of its existence any more than does the Mule. Consequently, the race is on to discover the truth.
What Asimov has created is a classic example of a dialectic, more so in terms of claim, challenge, and correction rather than thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Not only does it represent the dialectic, the Foundation Trilogy embodies it as well, because that is the principle behind how the Seldon Plan works and adjusts to changes both small and large as the universe plays outs its history. It does not have the great depth and richness of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings," or the style and flair of Lucas's "Star Wars." But then Asimov always represented striped down narratives, where the characters would have intense discussions about scientific principles, which usually boiled down to his belief that science could solve any and all human problems.
Because the Foundation Trilogy is a landmark in the history of science fiction it now enjoys a significance that goes beyond its merit as a story. Eventually Asimov would connect this series with both his Empire and his Robot novels, but it is still important to remember the Foundation Trilogy on its own terms. Even with "Second Foundation," there is something intrinsically enjoyable in the way that Asimov offers plausible solution after plausible solution before revealing the solution that was true.