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Foundation and Empire Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1991
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Led by its founding father, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon, and taking advantage of its superior science and technology, the Foundation has survived the greed and barbarism of its neighboring warrior-planets. Yet now it must face the Empire--still the mightiest force in the Galaxy even in its death throes. When an ambitious general determined to restore the Empire's glory turns the vast Imperial fleet toward the Foundation, the only hope for the small planet of scholars and scientists lies in the prophecies of Hari Seldon.
But not even Hari Seldon could have predicted the birth of the extraordinary creature called The Mule--a mutant intelligence with a power greater than a dozen battle fleets...a power that can turn the strongest-willed human into an obedient slave.
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A quick refresher on the background: The psychohistorian Hari Seldon was able to mathematically foresee the future of human society in the Milky Way. It wasn't pretty. Socio-economic forces were to cause the total collapse of the Trantorian Empire and lead to 30,000 years of anarchy and barbarism before a new empire restored peace and order. However, Seldon saw an "alternate path" that could reduce the duration of the Dark Ages to a single millennium. He established two societies (called Foundations) to bring this change about.
In Foundation, we learn how the fledgling First Foundation established itself after Seldon's death and how it grew powerful. In F&E, Seldon is long dead and the First Foundation faces much more serious threats: a war with the dying but still powerful Trantorian Empire and a war with a mutant leader called The Mule who possesses incredible powers. The part about the war with the Empire is a straightforward narrative with a couple interesting twists. The second part about The Mule takes place a few decades later and is written in the style of a mystery, sort of like the first two Robot novels.
Since The Mule is an individual of extraordinary power, Seldon's psychohistorical predictions for the First Foundation are in jeopardy because they deal only with masses of people and large scale socio-economic forces. Hence the second part is a more exciting read. :-) Also, until the end of the second part the Second Foundation is a mysterious society on the other side of the Galaxy about whom we know next to nothing. Although I guessed the nature of The Mule's powers, I did not guess his identity and it was a great surprise for me when it was revealed at the end. The events of the last two chapters are stunning and really make you want to rip into the third book. Yet F&E doesn't end on a cliffhanger and is quite satisfying in and of itself. This unique blend is a testament to Asimov's genius as an author. Also, you'll learn why the mutant calls himself The Mule and it's quite enlightening!
With novels written later, Asimov tied together three series into one huge one! I recommend reading the entire 14-book series in the following order: the four Robot novels, the three Empire novels, and the seven Foundation novels (the original trilogy plus two prequels and two sequels). So far I've yet to read the last three Foundation books (Second Foundation, Foundation's Edge, Foundation and Earth), but so far most have been excellent and all have been well above average.
One minor grievance; some phrases seem to reappear in multiple books of the series. Asimov seems particularly fond of the adjective "sardonically" - but this can scarcely be deemed a flaw, just something that one might notice.
The second half with the Mule was great. Reading this part the second time wasn't quite as fun, as I knew the shocking revelations at the end already. However, the Mule character was an unforgettable device, and was great.
If you have even the slightest interest in Sci-Fi, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to you.
The Foundatuion series, of which this is the first novel, is set in the distant future. Man has colonised most of the galaxy and it is headed by an Emporer and administered by a huge beauracracy. However, one man is able to see the coming fall of the empire and the dark age to follow. He plans to set up a repository of knowledge from which a new civilisation can rise.
What we have here is a spin on the fall of the Roman empire on a galactic scale. Asimovs strength is his ability to speculate about future social structures and mores. His weakness is in character development. So what you get is classic space opera, but with a 1950s undertone to it.
This is an enjoyable, light read and will doubtless lead you onto the rest of the series.
I hope this helps :D
Top international reviews
It's dated a little with the amount of smoking especially cigars in the dialogue!
series of all time!! I have read the series many times and
enjoy it every time!
This had passed me by until recently so if it's somehow done the same with you and if its your cup of tea then buy this trilogy asap!
A master of his genre. A good tale full of twists and turns with great character development. My only criticism of this trilogy so far no women and one! although to his credit she is equal to the men. Thoroughly enjoyable.