Monday, January 16, 2012

Foundation Group Read Discussion Part 2

Here we are, the last group read discussion for Foundation by Isaac Asimov. These questions cover Part 3, Chapter 4 to the end. Group read questions are in bold and my answers follow. There will be mild spoilers if you have not read the book.

Salvor Hardin was the first character in the book that we got to spend any significant time with. What are your thoughts on the grande finale of his plotting, scheming and maneuvering to get the Foundation through to the next Seldon crisis?

Seldon put a lot of faith in the next generation to carry out his plan. I understand why the book is called Foundation. Seldon built a strong foundation from the beginning in order to accomplish his vision. It seems wrong, all the scheming and plotting but it’s all done for the survival of the Foundation and to prevent war and so far the Foundation has been able to prosper and grow without fighting or being taken over by their stronger neighbors.

What are your thoughts on the way in which control/manipulation to achieve Foundation ends began to shift with The Traders?

Although it was all part of the grand scheme, it was also a natural progression as society begins to advance on its own. Without the Foundation's manipulation it would have happened though not as quickly as it has. And I like that it’s starting to steer away from the religious aspect of control over technology.

One of the interesting things about Seldon's psychohistory is how much one man can actually affect it. In Foundation we see characters like Hardin and Mallow as key figures for positioning things just right to work towards Seldon's later predictions. Do you see this as a contradiction to what Seldon said about psychohistory at the beginning of our story or part of an overall plan? Discuss.

Just as Seldon took initiative to set things in motion to establish the Foundation, I do believe he knew that there would be others like him who would understand his vision for the Foundation. And it would take these two extraordinary men, Hardin and Mallow, to set things in motion to accomplish that overall plan.

Did you see similarities or differences between the way in which Salvador Hardin and Hober Mallow operated and what are your thoughts about this final section of Foundation? Would you have been content as a reader back then with how everything played out?

Hardin and Mallow both had similar situations where the Foundation was threatened and with clever maneuvering they had to work their way out of it in mostly non-violent ways, the result being a stronger Foundation. The differences, from what I can tell, Hardin took control through a coup and turned the other kingdoms against each other, where Mallow did so proving his innocence during a trial, very similar to Seldon had to go through.

I enjoyed the way events played out so I think I would have been content if I had read this years ago too.

Has your concept/thoughts of what Seldon was trying to do changed at all since the book began?

Not really. I was questioning his motives to begin with, whether he truly was trying to establish the Foundation for the good of the Galactic Empire. I’m really leaning towards him establishing his own galaxy wide empire that would be built upon the foundation he established and he’s counting on his Foundation to not make the same mistakes as the Galactic Empire.

Any final thoughts on the story as a whole, its structure, what it did or did not accomplish, how it worked for you, etc?

I enjoyed it and I liked the reveal that Mallow had been set up and was able to prove it. I read the debate on the info dump in the conversations from last week’s group read discussion. It did get a bit wordy in that way near the end with the trial. After reading something like Zone One, which had little dialogue, I was nice to have the characters speaking to each other and events unfolding through their actions, instead of it all happening in their heads.

I’m glad I participated in this group read. So far with the Science Fiction Experience this is the only book I’ve enjoyed. I got about thirty pages into The Difference Engine and Count to a Trillion before giving up. A gratuitous boob grab and techno babble with some grammar mistakes (intentional or bad editing?) were the deal breakers with both. I just have to say that Foundation had just enough science and technology that it wasn’t overwhelming, political intrigue to make it interesting and it moved at a nice quick pace. And since I enjoyed Foundation I will be participating in the next group read coming up for Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov, the second book in the series.


  1. You and others have touched on what I think is such a strong concept in the book--the fact that Terminus was able to be protected without having to resort to violence. It is a far cry from most science fiction novels (or any novels where 'action' is part of the process). It is interesting to see the protagonists have to use their wits, even if they are being shady to do so, in order to survive and not be the victims of a hostile military takeover.

    I am glad that Asimov had both characters, Hardin and Mallow, achieve their ends in different ways rather than there being too many similarities in what he did. I can only imagine as he wrote these individual short stories for the sf magazines of the day that he was having enormous fun trying different things with each section, especially since he was able to skip ahead each time a number of years. Both men have similarities in their aims and in the way they use their wits and their tongues to get themselves, and the Foundation, out of trouble but they did it by such different means that each section of the book was fresh.

    I enjoyed that this one was more dialogue heavy. There are info dumps along the way but I suspect much of that is due to the episodic nature of the stories and that Asimov was trying to make sure readers jumping on at any one point with the magazines would be able to catch on to some degree. I can be forgiving of that given its publishing history. I'm less forgiving when it happens in contemporary novels.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this and are coming along with us for the next read. I'll be interested to see how everyone reacts to this next book and the unfolding saga of the collapse of the Galactic Empire.

    1. Yes, as much as I enjoy great battles in the books I read it is a refreshing change to have these characters survive without resorting to violence.

  2. I'm new to sci-fi and I think for that reason this has been a really good choice. For me, I think it's just a really good story - there are bits of sci fi here and there but it's more like a political history. If you took away the gadgets and space ships you would probably almost not realise you're reading sci fi.
    Lynn :D

    1. Very true. You can put the basic story into any time period and it would play out well.