Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been participating in a groupread of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation and Empire” (see here and here). At the end of each readalong, I like to post a spoiler-free review of the book for anyone who hasn’t read it and been following the discussions.
“Foundation and Empire” is the continuation of the story that Asimov began in The Foundation. Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian, predicted the downfall of the Galactic Empire, and so he established two Foundations at opposite ends of the galaxy in order to prevent mankind from falling into a dark age. Asimov writes in an episodic manner, as the Foundation Trilogy was originally written and published as a serial.
In the first half of the book, readers are exposed to what is left of the Empire. A brilliant young commander named Bel Riose hears rumors about the Foundation and perceives them as a threat to the Empire, and so sends ships to attack. They capture a man named Devers who finds himself tasked with saving the Foundation from imminent destruction.
In the second half of the book, we see the first strong female character in the trilogy, Bayta. She and her husband Toran find themselves in the midst of a conflict involving a mysterious mutant called The Mule.
I liked “Foundation and Empire” even more than I liked “Foundation.” Asimov does a brilliant job of creating complex characters who are not entirely good or evil, and he does so in such a way that readers can find themselves sympathizing with villains or being frustrated with heroes. All the while, Asimov uses the concept of the Foundation in the same way as most authors would use a protagonist, and so each segment of a book feels like a story in and of itself. Even though the Foundation novels were written in the 1950s, the story remains fresh and relevant to modern audiences.
Next week we will begin a groupread of the final novel in the trilogy, “Second Foundation.”
I read this book during a groupread for The 2012 Science Fiction Experience hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. It also counts toward the Speculative Fiction Challenge hosted by Baffled Books and the Award Winning Books Reading Challenge hosted by Gathering Books, as the Foundation Trilogy won a Hugo Award in 1966 as the Best All-Time Series.