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Foundation and Chaos: The Second Foundation Trilogy
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on May 10, 2015
Not bad, I became absorbed, felt more like I was reading Asimov than expected. But Seldon evaluates himself as a failure and is constantly moping around and not confident at all. The novel completely overlaps and re-interprets the first of Asimov's series "Foundation," beginning with Gaal Dornick, and repeating some of the courtroom and other conversations, while showing the viewpoint of other characters. But it is also strongly revisionist, changing the action, explaining this by a note in the Encyclopedia that there has been much revision to "accounts" and so no one really knows how long the trial lasted, etc.

One must consider that already, Asimov revised the Foundation and Robot series late in life to make an unintended marriage of them. Janet Asimov, his 2nd wife, apparently managed this series by contracting and influencing 3 separate writers, very unusual, who agreed on a general outline, including first the replacement of the STATISTICAL theory of psychohistory with a CHAOS theory (not the same at all - Asimov had a PhD in chemistry, which is dominated by statistical theories that work reliably). In this novel, much more is revealed about the robots and the plan to Empire insiders and others than would be done in an Asimov novel, and ultimately psychohistory is "swept away." Daneel declares it defeated. Seldon himself says it is "... one more hypothesis, guiding and shaping, but ultimately no more than another illusion among all the illusions of men - and robots."

While some of the specificity of the Seldon Crises (called Cusp Times when they actually involve Seldon) was unbelievable, the overall idea of some kind of statistical channelizing trends in human history, which after all repeats themes and patterns, gnawed at my subconscious throughout my entire adult life, until eventually I discovered a theory of crash rate and wrote a book on the Economic Optimization of Innovation & Risk, suggesting that not just software and spacecraft, but civilizations themselves had predictable crash rates, giving a formula for it, and using the theory to explain anomalous U.S. motorway death rates (as compared to for example Germany). Indeed, this idea cannot be swept away except by those who are determined to stubbornly repeat their misfortunes, and to never have a spacefareing civilization because they cannot adjust their social factors to counter unpleasant, destructive instincts. If you think airplanes can knock over a building, or a 17,000 mile per hour asteroid can extinct the dinosaurs, imagine ramming a 17,000 mile per second starship into a planet.

That said, there are some interesting details. The "Mule" plotline is pushed forward with a weak group, headed by Seldon's granddaughter (by Rayych, not his genetic granddaughter), and two other super-strong mentalic women, one "good" and the other "evil." While the robot good vs. evil factions become almost entirely blurred, with some robots easily switching sides multiple times, the two women are inexplicably polarized.

To continue a proper analysis I must indulge in at least some partial spoilers, so stop here if you cannot stand them.

Seldon realizes his "plan" is vaporware when he is attacked by one of the two women. But truthfully, he was already despondent, and I think this is because the new authors (who obviously collaborated on the 3-volume plot) do not care for "the plan" and feel constrained by it. Asimov enjoyed manipulating cleverly and avoiding violence within the plan, making small adjustments. Bear's preference for sweeping resolutions glowers like a caged animal not quite hidden below the surface of the narrative, finally ripping everything apart at the end, then putting it back together, with psychohistory nothing but an "illusion" temporarily shaping "motivating" events.

Asomiv's (Seldon's) plan was a convincing one. First the preservation of knowledge (the Encyclopedia project), which from the power of knowledge and through the vehicles of first religion during the superstitious times (Asimov was anti-religion) and then trade (a popular notion during the 1950s) re-grows the [an] Empire. Then of course he needs some credible threat, enter the Mule, and the Second Foundation to counter it. But the threats are always dealt with using no force and minimal "adjustment."

Bear uses more memory wipes than Men in Black. It is hard to believe Seldon can think at all his memory has been modified so many times, much less build an accurate model of human behavior. In Asimov's one novel about Seldon (Prelude...) he is portrayed as a dogged investigator, filtering out hidden truth, unafraid and undaunted by seemingly superior adversaries (or friends, if they be such). In my experience, old men of this variety do not become defeated, but continue to swagger and plot and investigate even to their dying breaths. It is in their character. It must have been in Asimov's character, a flawed character by his own admission with his single minded focus on writing over anything else, but Bear is a different man.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the read, but I did not see a full and clear analysis in the other reviews, so I've added my two cents worth.
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I enjoyed "Foundation and Chaos" but make no mistake--this novel is very unlike anything that Isaac Asimov would have written. If some of Asimov's own writing was contained in this novel, as some reviews have stated, it is well submerged in Greg Bear's very different writing style. Bear has a murky, much more wordy style than did Asimov, and this novel is not an Asimov story.

In fact, I would argue that this novel is not really a Foundation novel. Without giving too much away (*minor spoiler*) this book postulates that robots had played a huge role in the development and control of the human race as it spread out among the stars. I found this theme to be depressing and unnecessary. Asimov's theme was that, with minor exceptions, robots had more or less gotten out of the way, with Daneel emerging mainly to nudge Hari Seldon into inventing psychohistory to soften the fall of the Galactic Empire. Here we have robots against robots, factions, intra-robot conflict, etc. Like most of Bear's novels, there is an interesting idea here, (Bear is an idea guy) but confused by his somewhat murky writing style.

I liked the novel. Most Asimov fans will probably like it too. But this is not an Asimov story.
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on May 22, 2017
I liked Bear's character development better than I remember in the original Foundation Trilogy, with the exception of Dors, whose part in this novel was quite restrained. That is my opinion.
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on April 21, 2012
Ii is written very much in the Asimov style, so not jarring in the story line at all. I liked it and recommend it. Reviews said skip the first book of the 3 series followup so I started with this one (the 2nd of 3) and don't feel like I have missed anything by skipping the first new one. Can't wait to read the 3rd to finish the story line up.

I did think the trilogy would take over to cover the last 500 years of the 1,000 years of rebuilding, but so far this book is 100% on the topic of the Empire at the time Hari Seldon goes on trial. Good background info though, and interesting.
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on September 11, 2015
Written to satisfy both Bear followers and Asimov traditionalists. Adventurous, keeps you on the edge of your proverbial seat!!!!!!!!!
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on December 30, 2012
At last, a continuance of the
Foundation series. It is almost as if Asimov had written it himself. Greg Bear is an excellent writer in his own stead and I am happy that he was able to bring this chapter of the Foundation series to light. If possible and with the ok. of the Asimov estate, I would like to see a continuance of this series to its ultimate conclusion....whatever that might be.
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on September 11, 2017
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on March 28, 2009
Not even close to the concept, the narrative, and the eloquence of the Master (Isaac Asimov). There is no mystery. What it is is a soap opera with pages upon pages of silly dialogue. If allowed, I suppose that Mr. Bear would throw in a few light-saber fights and describe them blow-by-blow, grunt-by-grunt. A silly, silly book, but to be fair, Benford's Foundation Fear is in the same league (and "Forward" and "Prelude" by the late Master are no gems either.)

The two most interesting characters are Tritch and Mors Planch. Tritch gets a few lines and Planch some more, but not enough.

Why can't Dan Simmons or Vernon Vinge be asked to write a sequel to "Foundation and Earth". Now there's a mystery worth pursuing and with them the Asimov Estate would do well to preserve and honor the spirit of the "Foundation" series.
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on January 18, 2018
An inspired dive into Asimovian Universe. Masterfully fleshed out to perfection. Psychohistory, and Hari are both more complex, more dynamic in this telling, but the end result is just as elegant and mythical as in Asimov’s novels. Bravo.
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on August 18, 2015
Excellent continuation of the Greatest Science Fiction Series ever wriiten. Although the writing style is not quite that of the Grand Master himself the story line holds true.
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