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4.3 out of 5 stars
Foundation's Edge (Foundation Novels)
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've tried reading some of the newer SF authors and some of them, especially in the last several years, have turned out to be surprisingly excellent. Nevertheless I keep returning to the old masters with whom I grew up.
You know which three. Just so you know where I'm coming from: I've always been primarily a Heinlein fan and Asimov was a close second; although I've read Clarke I never really got into him too much. (Among SF writers since that time, my main loyalties have been to Spider Robinson and James Hogan, and among the _really_ recent ones I've been especially impressed by China Mieville, Richard Morgan, Neal Stephenson, and Robert Sawyer.)
Of the big three, Asimov undoubtedly had the highest literary output as measured in sheer wordage. I've been of the opinion for several years now that the only reason the Good Doctor stopped writing is that somebody went and told him he'd died. I have my own views about what parts of his output were of the highest quality, but there's little doubt that the Foundation series (not a "trilogy"; it was originally published as a series of short stories and novellas) is among his best known.
(He's also known, of course, for his famous robot stories. Long before the current generation of cyberwriters started screaming mouthlessly and crashing snowily, Asimov was writing compelling tales of mechanical intelligence on the presumption that such technology was on _our_ side. And like Heinlein -- and with just as little credit among modern writers -- he anticipated the recent explosion in information technology. For Heinlein, see especially _Friday_; for Asimov, drop by Trantor and visit the Galactic Library.)
He had secured his place in SF history fifty years before his death. But (again like Heinlein) he spent some of his later years tying up his better-known works into one big future-history package (including not only his Foundation stories but also his robot stories and his Galactic Empire novels). I think he did this more successfully than even Heinlein did.
This one -- _Foundation's Edge_ -- was his first return to the world of the Foundation stories after some thirty years. In it, he began to address a big fat problem he had left at the end of the original series of tales: how come the First Foundation bought so easily into the fabrication that the Second Foundation had really been defeated and dismantled, when in fact it hadn't?
Now, I have to say at once that purely _as_ a Foundation novel, this one probably isn't the most satisfying of the bunch. In fact both _Prelude to Foundation_ and _Forward the Foundation_, (excellent novels both, by the way) include _much_ more interesting Foundation-y stuff. But the very points that make this one weak as a Foundation novel also make it strong as an SF novel.
You see, it's hard to write really engaging novels about Hari Seldon's science of psychohistory, because the science itself is supposed to be statistical and to work only in the abstract with large masses of human beings. That fact means that a good psychohistory tale is bound to focus on broad historical forces at the expense of individual character development. Indeed, even in the original series of stories, Asimov had to introduce a radical departure from the Seldon Plan (via the Mule) in order to generate a really compelling human-interest tale.
This novel is probably among Asimov's best in terms of character development. That's one of the reasons I like it best as a novel; it's probably that I tend to empathize with the rebellious Golan Trevize (and to some extent with the equally mavericky Stor Gendibal) and to enjoy hopping around the galaxy with these guys nearly as much as with Lazarus Long.
Unfortunately that's also why it doesn't advance the ball much as far as Foundation history is concerned. _Prelude_ and _Forward_ are filled to the brim with scientific research, Imperial intrigue, and cool plot twists; this one is more of a character piece. It's not that nothing interesting or significant happens; far from it. It's just that the cool stuff mostly doesn't involve the outworking of the Seldon Plan.
At any rate, the Good Doctor was an expert at telling an engaging tale and keeping the reader involved until the very end. I, at least, have found this to be one of his most unputdownable (and the two Foundation prequels are darned close).
I didn't like _Foundation and Earth_ as well (and I'm not sure Asimov served the series terribly well by trying to tie in all the robot stuff), but I hope it returns to print so that I can buy a replacement copy.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you've already formed an opinion about Isaac Asimov's writing, FOUNDATION'S EDGE isn't likely to change your mind. The book has all of Asimov's earmarks, both good and bad: wooden characters who almost always know exactly how they feel and say exactly what they mean; dialogue-heavy scenes in which the exchanges are drenched with ideas and cerebral analysis but almost devoid of emotion or neurosis; an inventive setting replete with plausible details; and a propulsive, energetic plot that delivers lots of suspense and surprises. I already liked Asimov before I picked up the book, and it certainly didn't disappoint me, but it's not going to convert anybody who only wants to read about nuanced characters making subtle self-discoveries.
Because the plot is one of the book's best features, to say too much about it would spoil the fun for too many readers, so I'll limit myself to one of its most interesting aspects, which is that it attempts to tie together a number of Asimov's works. Without giving too much away, it's fair to say that part of the book's project is to meld the fictional "universes" of the Robot stories, the Empire novels, and THE END OF ETERNITY with that of the FOUNDATION trilogy. Many Asimov fans have derided this decision, claiming that it marks the beginning of his decline as a science fiction writer. For myself, while I can't say that I find the attempt at retrofitting fictional consistency onto highly disparate works to be particularly compelling or convincing, I do find it interesting. Consider that Asimov was an atheist, who argued that in the absence of any persuasive evidence of a Supreme Being (of which he could find none), it was more rational to believe in God's nonexistence than in His existence. Yet for us to credit Asimov's notion of psychohistory, we must posit that certain characteristics are common to all humans. I would contend that the religious or spiritual impulse is such a characteristic, and that as people get older and their desire for comfort, security, and meaning increases, that impulse only gets stronger. I wonder: as Asimov aged, did he channel his own growing spiritual impulse into the project of forcing his fictional creations into an overall rubric, of imposing meaning where none previously existed?
If you're an Asimov fan, FOUNDATION'S EDGE should be required reading. It did, after all, win the Good Doctor the 1983 Hugo award for best novel. On the other hand, if you're new to Asimov, this isn't the place to start. Instead, check out the FOUNDATION trilogy, or the Robot novels (THE CAVES OF STEEL and THE NAKED SUN -- the later ROBOTS OF DAWN and ROBOTS AND EMPIRE were part of Asimov's retrofitting project.) Better yet, read his short stories, collected in two excellent volumes titled THE COMPLETE STORIES I and II. It is those stories which cemented his reputation as a world class sf author, and I would argue that it is that reputation, rather than any particular virtue of this novel, that FOUNDATION'S EDGE's Hugo acknowledges.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2002
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
Foundation's Edge is chronologically the sixth book in the Foundation series. The events here take place about two hundred years after those in the novel Second Foundation. The book introduces a surprising new element into Asimov's fictional universe.
Essentially, a couple key people in the First Foundation realize that the Second Foundation survives and is likely still guiding the First Foundation in following the Seldon Plan. Mayor Branno of Terminus sends the young politician Golan Trevize out to attempt to draw the Second Foundation's attention and thus bring them out of hiding.
At the same time, Stor Gendibal of the Second Foundation believes that things are going too smoothly and that some third party may be directing humanity's course, even to the extent of controlling the Second Foundation! He is also aware of Trevize's mission (through a secret agent on Terminus) and thinks that Trevize is headed for a rendezvous with this other organization. So Gendibal sets out to pursue Trevize and to hopefully locate this sinister controlling entity.
Some very surprising information is revealed in the last couple chapters of the book. To fully appreciate the revelations, you should read the four-book Robot series prior to reading Foundation's Edge. In addition, Asimov makes a couple references to the third Empire novel "Pebble In The Sky". Therefore, I recommend first reading the Robot series, then the Empire series (three books), and finally the seven Foundation novels. This will give you Asimov's complete vision in chronological order.
Overall I enjoyed Foundation's Edge and liked the new characters it introduced. It's a fairly long read but the pace picks up when the plot lines begin converging about two-thirds of the way through. As usual, Asimov is heavy on dialogue and is fond of explaining things through debates or discussions between characters. The ending is a bit weak and doesn't resolve everything but fortunately the novel "Foundation and Earth" picks up right where Edge leaves off. I'm looking forward to reading the final chapter in this wonderful saga.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. I read the entire Foundation series (minus the non-Asimov books, and Forward the Foundation) about 10 years ago. I have re-read all of them (except Foundation and Earth) plus I read Forward the Foundation within the last few weeks. I found the second time through that Foundation's Edge was my favourite (after Prelude). I could not put the book down at all as it was constantly building towards the climax. Even though this was my second read of this series, so that I knew what would happen, it was extremely enjoyable to engulf my mind in it once again. The greatest asset to this book is the extensive conflicts between individuals on an intellectual perspective that Asimov covers quite well. Reading how individuals were trying to outwit one another and dealing with those of lower intellect was quite stimulating especially when I compared it to how similiar these interactions are from current modern day life. I apologize in advance if my descriptions are vague at best but I do not want to ruin the reading experience for anyone who is trully considering reading this book. If you enjoyed Prelude to Foundation (which I strongly suggest you read along with the other 4 Asimov foundation novels prior to this one) then you should enjoy this one immensely.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book would be interesting only if you have read the foundation trilogy and are just dying for more. Otherwise, this book is just an episodic bumbling from place to place. The previous books challenged the reader to imagine a world where a very sophisticated mathematical and social science could predict the course of humanity. However, Foundations Edge does not add anything significantly new, and the empire saga begins to feel tired
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's worth reminding yourself before you pick up this book that it was written a looong time after he wrote the original three Foundation books-- thirty years after, to be precise. It is also the first of the Foundation books that was written as a single book; the others were originally written and published as a series of short stories. When the Asimov's publisher asked for a new Foundation book, he jumped at a chance to finally make a fully developed book out of the theme.
Given these facts, it's not surprising that there's some fairly significant differences between the thematic focus and tone of _Foundation's Edge_ and the three novels preceding it. I think this accounts for some of the dismay from fans of the trilogy and the feeling that Asimov somehow stopped fighting the good fight.
The Seldon plan still plays an important role, but it is no longer the backbone of the story as it was in the trilogy. Instead, Asimov takes the opportunity to tie together the Robot and Foundation universes, creating a meditation on autonomy and government styles that asks a number of questions about strategic choices and also asks about the relationship between governed and the governors. When the warlike first Foundation sends a troublesome politician in search of the manipulative second Foundation, every party finds more than they bargained for when they reach the planet Gaia.
I *liked* _Foundation's Edge_ although I would agree that it doesn't reach the heights of the trilogy itself-- it has a number of weaknesses (the lame explanation of the Mule's origins, for one) and doesn't feel as important somehow. But the original trilogy was a darned difficult act to follow, true?
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is as good as any of the original three books of the Foundation Trilogy, and is in my opinion a work of Creative Genius. Some readers have commented on the seeming non-religious philosophy of the book, but although the philosophy is somewhat strange (not to give away the ending), I think that it is compatible with either a religious or non-religious viewpoint, and furthermore Asimov intended further books to follow to develop his themes further. Others have indicated that his characters are psychologically or emotionally lifeless, but the main characters Trevize and Gendibal and Sura Novi and Mayor Branno and Pelorat are as alive as most of Shakespeare's characters without the unnecessary violence. In this book, Asimov reveals himself to be a master of surprise, characterization, conflict and its resolutions, and an openness to ethical and even environmental questions. Most of all, perhaps, he is the ultimate opponent of bureaucracies in this book, whether academic, political, or any others. His conclusion is a bit confusing on this matter, but I do not think it was intentional but rather was dictated largely by the element of surprise and telling a good and entertaining story.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The first three quarters of this book were engaging and almost compulsively readable. That section was worth 5 stars. Now, for the first time, we get an idea what life in the 2nd Foundation's inner circle is like. The mystery of the home world, Earth is brought out. All of this makes for a very tightly packed excellent read until we get to Gaia. The book hits with a huge splat at this point. It becomes a 1 star book after that.

Spoiler warning:

The planet Gaia was thought to be Earth at one point, but the book veers off into silly garbage about a planet filled with mind readers who claim to be the Mule's people. They are terrible New Age stereotypes and I wonder if Asimov was making fun of this group. The idea that they are one with their planet and everyone is intimately connected mentally with everything, from rocks to animals, even to each other - (no privacy, even during sex they share it ALL) the whole situation is very disappointing. I remember from the previous books, it was mentioned that the Mule lived in a dystopian world as a boy in some sort of slum. I got the idea it was a large metropolis and he was abused for being a freak. Nothing about a whole planet full of mind readers who have willfully lost their personal identities.

The love story is god awful. I'm sorry, but I was pretty put off by the unlikely May December pairing of the old librarian with the 18 year old girl from Gaia, and when they are intimate, her link with the whole planet broadcasts to everyone what is going on . . . Ugh. The entry of this girl into the story is the point it begins to nosedive. This signals the introduction of Gaia and begins the unraveling of the Foundation universe.

The Foundation series takes a major hit with the introduction of New Age feel good stuff on planet Gaia. If this was meant as some sort of satire, I don't get it. It just ruins the great concept of the Foundation and prevents the story from developing to its conclusion. What happens at the end of 1000 years? Apparently, Asimov lost his way and we do not ever find out at the end of Foundation and Earth, the final book in the series. A serious disappointment. The story of finding Earth had great potential, but the reader is left hanging wondering what will happen at the 1000 year mark, the point at which the Foundation was supposed to prevent the Dark Ages extending to thirty thousand years. Instead, we follow the wooden Trevize and the lovebirds through the next book on an increasingly silly adventure that ends in disappointment.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There was a reason why Asimov's original FOUNDATION TRILOGY was voted the best science fiction trilogy of all time by the Association of SF Writers. It covered a vast sweep of post-Galactic rise and fall that brought to mind Gibbons' RISE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE. Asimov's plots are straightforward, but often convoluted and requires a reader's careful attention to hints that suggest a surprise ending. In his original series, the action is set perhaps 50,000 years from now in an empire ruled by Trantor, covering hundreds of millions of worlds. The empire is falling, and only Hari Seldon sees it. He sets up one foundation in the full glare of light and a secret second foundation buried under the ruins of a devastated Trantor.
Fully thirty years after Asimov wrote this trilogy, he returned to the same theme, but this time he tries to connect other themes from his past: the destruction of earth from his robot series and his fascination with a long-lived sect of humans who exist only to plot the end of their more short-lived brethren.
FOUNDATION'S EDGE tells the stories of two protagonists: Golan Trvize, an upsetter of his superior's political plans, who travels through space to locate the hidden Second Foundation; and Stor Gendibal, a member of the secret Second Foundation, who is on a similar trek to locate Earth. Soon enough, their respective journeys co-incide, but not on Earth. Both wind up on Gaia, a planet that was probably settled long ago from Earth. The complicated plot leaves many loose ends for sequels as both Golan Trevize and Stor Gendibal realize that someone unconnected to either foundation had previously removed all references to Earth from all historical sources and libraries.
To appreciate how this novel fits in to Asimov's Foundation universe, it is useful to have first read other works in the canon. I recommend his robot series and Pebble in the Sky. Still, FOUNDATION'S EDGE can be enjoyed on its own basis.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you read the Foundation Trilogy and anxious about what happened next, get this book as well as Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation, and Foundation and Earth. Also read the robot series connected to Foundation :The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn, Robots and Empire.
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