Isaac Asimov's 1951-53 Foundation trilogy is a rough-hewn classic of far future SF, honored with a unique 1965 Hugo for Best All-Time Series. It begins with "psychohistorian" Hari Seldon mapping the best possible course for humanity's next millennium, after the fall of the doomed Galactic Empire. Late in life Asimov revisited the series and awkwardly linked it with his popular robot stories--introducing vast conspiracy theories to explain the Empire's total lack of visible robots.
Asimov's estate authorized three SF notables to fill out Seldon's life in the Second Foundation Trilogy, which David Brin here wraps up after Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fear and Greg Bear's Foundation and Chaos. Chaos is the new keyword, because chaos theory seemingly makes nonsense of psychohistorical prediction. Whole planetary populations can lapse into chaotic rebellion despite secret mind-controlling agencies behind the scenes. So Seldon makes his last interstellar journey, harried, lectured, and even kidnapped by the warring factions of robots and not-quite-robots that have long manipulated humanity. The robots' dilemma:
"We are loyal, and yet far more competent than our masters. For their own sake, we have kept them ignorant, because we know too well what destructive paths they follow, whenever they grow too aware."
Brin does his best with Asimov's overcrowded legacy, skillfully steering Seldon to an insight about the much-foretold future that satisfies both the old man and the reader, with a spark of human free will and constructive chaos shining through the grayness of predestination. Asimov would have approved. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
With the permission of the estate of Isaac Asimov, Gregory Benford (Foundations Fear), Greg Bear (Foundation and Chaos) and Brin, collectively billed as the Killer Bs, took on the Second Foundation Trilogy. Unhappily, Brins preachy, gelatinous conclusion deserves another Bfor Boring. Having followed the adventures of the galactic Foundation founder, Hari Seldon, in previous volumes, Asimov aficionados here find Seldon retired, aged, infirm and on the brink of death. Then a chance encounter with a low-level bureaucrat stimulates Seldon into creaky action against chaos, a mental disease afflicting all humanity. Seldon travels fitfully through an upside-down universe 20,000 years into mankinds future, when humans have become impotent, amnesiac creator-gods. Their creations, Asimovs positronic robots led by the enigmatic R. Daneel Olivaw, really control the universe. Brin (The Postman, etc.) resurrects many characters from the five previous Foundation volumes, but their lack of vitality makes these featureless humans as bland as robots. And he divulges these characters secrets in laborious sociological theorizing little better than a thin stream of platitudes. After so much recycling of Asimovs original, the wear and tear is showing, badly, but enough loose plot ends dangle to suggest that yet more sequels may be coming, someday.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.