on May 18, 2004
This is the final book in the original Foundation trilogy.
With the advent of the Mule, the Foundation is set off from the Seldon plan irreversibly. Or is it? The second book ends with a theory that the Second Foundation established by Seldon, is one consisting of the scientists using Seldon's own method of mathematical psychology. As such, it would make it a natural complement to the physical scientists of the First Foundation. However, very little is known about the Second Foundation and they haven't shown their face in all the centuries of the Foundation history. Do they exist? Do they have the power of Seldon's psychology? Are they the true keepers of the Plan or are they the enemy?
This novel details the search for the Second Foundation - whatever that entity happens to be. There are two books: the first detailing the Mule's own search for the Second Foundation (to destroy it and thus establish his supreme dominion of the Galaxy) and the second, detailing the search by some people from the Foundation itself (by which time, it is seen as a hostile force from the Foundation's perspective).
I found the second book to be better, but, while enjoyable, they both suffer from a flaw missing from the previous Foundation novels. The others were concerned largely with physical force and even at that were pretty packed with conspiracies, double-crossing and the like. Because the Second Foundation deals with the mind, these elements escalate to the point where I though it was a bit too arbitrary. The climaxes of both books are a bit like a wild goose chase, where the reader's conception of the situation is shattered and a new one built up in its place several times over within a few pages. It seems a bit over-the-top.
Still, a great finish to the trilogy. It's still a very entertaining novel and other than that flaw, it has the great mega-epic quality of the others: a whole civilisation's essence is epitomised in a few hundred pages. The book ends on a quite unresolved note, hundreds of years away from the projected establishment of the Second Empire, but it's the potential uncertainty that I liked (a good thing for the purists who don't accept the later Foundation novels as being in the spirit!). It certainly wraps up the whole basis of what the Plan was/is and why things happened like they did (although, of course, it doesn't fully satisfy by a longshot). This makes it a worthy ending to the monumental trilogy.
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.
on August 12, 2002
Asimov's classic original trilogy comes to a close in this ambitious finale. Here Asimov has really gone over the top with political and intellectual intrigue, which propels the two main plot elements. As with the two previous Foundation novels, there are actually two shorter stories here that take place decades apart. In this installment Hari Seldon's plan gets back on track after being disrupted by the mutant known as the Mule, with the mythical Second Foundation starting to peek out from behind the scenes. Who works for whom, who's a traitor or not, and whether or not the Second Foundation even really exists are all intricately played out by a series of intelligent and conspiratorial characters in relentlessly tangled webs of intrigue. In fact, this book has the most well-defined characters yet to appear in the Foundation series, especially the young Arcadia. The original Foundation saga is wrapped up nicely here as the original trilogy comes to a close. Of course, Asimov's creation is so expansive that there was plenty of room for more speculation and development of the story, leading to the prequels and sequels that Asimov continued to crank out for this classic series.
on March 8, 2002
I enjoyed Foundation, and Foundation and Empire even more, but Second Foundation is truly the pinnacle of the series, and a masterpiece. Very tightly and interestingly written, it begins with the story of the Mule's search for the second Foundation. This is an extremely interesting portion of the story, and makes for a great, fascinating read. It picks up on the semi-cliffhanger ending of Foundation and Empire, and wraps up that part of the story in worthy style. The second (and lengthier) part of the book deals with first Foundation's search for the said second Foundation. This is truly interesting as well, and the plot goes through so many twists and turns that your head will be reeling by the end! You really have to give it up for Asimov, as he truly wrote it masterfully, tying up nearly every single loosed end in the series, and creating a reel of suspense and intrigue that should be commended on any level. I guarantee you, the last couple of chapters will have you frantically flicking back to earlier ones to look over tiny little points that you may have missed. A truly compelling read.
A masterpiece. Read it.
on January 28, 2002
Second Foundation is the conclusion to the original Foundation trilogy and focuses on the events following the Mule's conquest of the First Foundation. Can the Seldon Plan for a peaceful Second Empire recover from the severe damage inflicted by the mutant Mule? The first part of the book takes place soon after the awesome ending of Foundation and Empire and describes how the Mule is finally thwarted. The "final battle" with the Mule was somewhat anti-climactic but still made a good ending to the first part.
The second part takes place a couple decades later and examines the First Foundation's search for the mysterious and hidden Second Foundation. This part comprises most of the novel and takes much more concentration to understand everything that's happening. There are several major twists throughout this second part so you must read carefully if you want to try to figure things out before Asimov reveals the answers!
Essentially, the Second Foundation is desperately trying to get the Seldon Plan back on track (after it was bent by the Mule) and is forced to manipulate key individuals, something which was never done before. However, some smart people in the First Foundation figure out that individuals are being manipulated and deduce that the Second Foundation is at fault. So the search is on to find and destroy the Second Foundation before too many people are in their control.
Second Foundation ties up virtually all loose ends introduced in the first two books and is a superb read. As with many Asimov novels, the last chapter has a major twist (actually, two) that gets you flipping back to see if it makes sense in the context of what happened before. As usual, it does. :-) I recommend reading Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation before reading the original trilogy. Now it's time for me to read Foundation's Edge and I can't wait!
on November 19, 2001
If you have read original Foundation, then this is a must read. You can skip "Foundation and Empire", although it's a good idea to have read both these.
This book starts with a powerful "Mule" who conquered foundation in the second book..(Foundation and Empire). The Mule has powers to mold people's minds to suit his needs, and the foundation falls to these psychic powers. However, this Mule is mysteriously "calmed" in his later years from his thirst to conquer the galaxy. You will unearth the mystery in the book, but the foundation people are not so fortunate. Even though foundation frees and again rises to old glory after mule's death, the question haunts them. How was Mule defeated?
As foundation's doubts start growing, Hari Seldon's plan becomes endagered. Is there really a second foundation? And if there is, where is it? Perhaps a girl knows this secret and she must protect it and herself at all costs. How does she do it? Meanwhile the politics in the neighborhood culminates and foundation starts a war with powerful enemies. Does Seldon scheme exist anymore? Or has it already fallen, which began from the rise of the Mule? These are real questions and to know their answers, you must read the book. The last page is really shocking and we are left with nothing, but marvelling at the superb skills of Asimov.
Truely fascinating. Nothing short of excitement from a suspence fiction. A must read:-)
on November 1, 2001
By this point, most readers will have adjusted to Asimov's style and its pretty much the same in this last installment of the original trilogy. I was excited to see the figure of a woman on the cover, thinking that there would finally be some character building, but alas - that just ain't Asimov. Nevertheless, however lightly and briefly her character was portrayed, Arkady Darell was a refreshingly strong female presence. The tale continues, as the Mutant Mule continues to seek out the Second Foundation. The First Foundationers are now convinced that the Second Foundation does exist and the battle between psychologists and tehcnologists comes to a head. The telepathic Second Foundation sends their secret agents to dissaude the Foundation and prevent the Mule from discovering their identity.
I continued reading Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth and was rather disappointed with the lack of focus. I rate the quality of the trilogy as first being the best, second being second best, and this one the weakest. Unless you're interested in making the connection between Asimov's Robot universe and this one, just read this trilogy, and forget the others.
on June 3, 2001
In the creation of his Foundation, Seldon also created a Second Foundation, whose location was only vaguely referred. Its nature as uncertain as its location, finally are we given a view of this entity. As in the previous Foundation books, this is not a single story but two individual stories.
The first story deals with the Mule, the Foundation-conquering mutant, and his search for the Second Foundation, the only thing barring him from universal domination. Relentless in his search, an encounter is finally made, which is incredibly well-written and suspenseful. Truly an excellent work of SF.
The second story takes place not terribly long after the first, and depicts yet another search for the elusive Second Foundation. The stakes do not seem to be as high, but the eventual effect greater. The Foundation has come to be complacent with regard to a certainty that its success is assured, especially with another Foundation out there keeping watch, as they believe. Consequently, a malaise has settled over the citizenry, who believe there is no urgency to anything. Some see this failing and seek to locate or disprove the existence of the other Foundation to either reinforce the belief or stimulate some activity. And boy do we get taken on a fun ride. Always keeping us guessing, as the clues lead us this way and that, it seems that Isaac always has the last laugh, as he keeps yanking the rug from under us.
As with the other preceding books in this series, I won't waste much space lauding the quality therein, for there has been enough said that I could not really be original. But this entire series is highly recommended for any who enjoy true science fiction. Happy reading!
on December 15, 2000
This book was originally the third of three in a series. The series has now been expanded to include at least four more novels. Since the additions were added much later in time, I think they lost the flavor of this series. If you want to read an Assimov book, read this book, and its two predecessors. The first two are great, in my view, classics. Second Foundation is very good, but not as good as the first two.
In Second Foundation, we learn more details about the second foundation. Does it exist? Where is it? What does it do? Second Foundation is actually a clever answer to the critics of Hari Seldon. There are flaws in psychohistory. This book explains what some of those flaws are, and how Mr. Seldon prepared to deal with them.
In Second Foundation, the book starts with the "Mule" and his search for the Second Foundation. The Mule has already conquered the first Foundation. He has the most powerful Empire in the Universe. His troops are undefeated. Yet, in the midst of his actions and continual successes, he halts he troops.
The Mule, who is a "mutant" able to control emotions, has discovered that someone or something else, has this same talent. His key personal have been attacked. Their intiative, their creativity have been altered to make them ineffective and incompetent as their assigned tasks. Since his Empire was based on his mutant power, anyone or anything that has the same power, is an overwhelming threat to him. Could these "second power" be the Second Foundation? The Mule learns the answer, but his people do not.
The second story in this book is the story of a group of scientists seeking out the Second Foundation. They are convinced it exists. Based on their new science, they are able to detect the influence of people whom them believe to be part of the Second Foundation. These scientists search for the Second Foundation. But sometimes success can be more dangerous then failure.
I didn't like this second story so much. The first story in this book is a good as the first two books. In the second story, a daughter of one of the Scientist, Arkady, is one of the key figures in the book. I was annoyed by her charactor and some of the things which happened here were not logical to me. By my annoyance should not distract you. This is, overall, a good book, well written, and worth reading.
on September 7, 2000
If you've read Foundation and Foundation and Empire, I see no reason why you wouldn't want to read this last installment. Foundation and Empire ended on the most amazing twist ever put to paper. A review would be pointless. Besides, most reviews are a sharing of opinions between people who have read the books, rather than providing insight for those that haven't. If you haven't read them, please do, and do so like the first Foundation, blindly and with no knowledge of the secrets that are to come. By now you know who the Mule is, his powers, and his purpose. Asimov so far only hinted at the Second Foundation, and why it must be kept secret. To defeat the Mule, they had to reveal themselves. That makes up the first half of the book. What would happen when a group of psychologists with superior mental powers face a mutant with equal or greater powers? There is no actual "battle," and this might be disappointing. The anticlimax builds to a quick defeat for the Mule, but I think it was the only way Asimov could have handled it. Asimov wanted to end the series there, but his editor at the time, John W. Campbell, would have none of it. Good thing, too, because it gets more exciting. Now that the first Foundation is aware of the Second, their actions are now random, based on their belief that the Second Foundation will help them through any crisis, and therefore unpredictable. The Second Foundation must now come up with a plan of their own to convince the first that they no longer exist. No small feat. The first Foundation let themselves be guided for so long, that they no longer think or act for themselves, despite their military and economic might. Hmm, maybe we could learn something from this. The Foundation is not yet ready for a ruling class of psychologists, and would resent their authority. Is the Second Foundation therefore their enemy? You might ask yourself this. This last part of the book centers on Arcadia Darell, the granddaughter of Bayta Darell, whom you know from F&E. Her romantic and adventerous spirit leads her to stowaway on board a ship with her "uncle" to search the Mule's records, and find out more about the Second Foundation. Asimov is not only one of the best science fiction writers, he is also an excellent mystery writer, and "SF" reads like a great thriller. But don't skip to the end, which is just as amazing as Foundation and Empire. When you think you know everything, guess again. Each of the books stands on its own as a classic of science fiction, but I prefer to take these books as a whole. The other books in the series are okay, but redundant. All the excitement is concentrated into these three books.