Here we are, the conclusion of the group read for Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. This is also part of the Science Fiction Experience which I’ve been participating in throughout January and on into February.
After a failed attempt by an ambitious general of the Galactic Empire, we jump ahead about a hundred years in the second half of Foundation and Empire. The Empire is no more and the Foundation has steadily grown but internally there are rumblings but none are greater than the Mule. The Foundation is once again threatened.
Below are the group read questions in bold and my answers follow. Beware, there will be spoilers!
1. While it didn't break new ground, Asimov did have a female character who played a major role in this second half of the book. What are your thoughts on how Asimov portrayed Bayta?
A little too domesticated at times but she was still interesting and I liked she was given an important role near the end. I have to comment on the scene where she grabbed Toran by the hair and they started this tumbling around thing. I guess it was meant to be playful but it was just awkward to me. But overall I liked her. She was kind and smart and you can see why Magnifico was attached to her.
2. Now that you know the Mule's identity, were you surprised or had you figured it out along the way? If you did figure it out, how did that affect your reading of the book?
Unfortunately, last week I was doing some research on Foundation and Empire. I warned myself not to read too much on the Wikipedia page but I ended up skimming over the part where it mentioned who the Mule was. I didn’t read it word for word but it was enough that I was expecting it. BUT, I loved the reveal and I loved the act Magnifico put on. He was pretty convincing!
3. In previous posts we discussed the role individuals seemed to have in the unfolding of Seldon's plan. How do you feel about the issue now that we've seen an individual derail Seldon's plans?
It still took an individual to carry out some kind of plan. Just not in Seldon’s way this time, which I found hilarious and awesome. This really made the whole story that much more interesting. We had certain individuals guiding things along, making sure Seldon’s vision was carried out and now we have the opposite side. I loved it. I guess the Foundation should not have been so dependent on Seldon and his psychohistory.
4. Did it surprise you in the end that the Mule was allowed to get away? Did Asimov make you feel any pity or empathy for the Mule, either as the clown and/or when you discovered he was the Mule?
Yes and yes. I was holding my breath as the Mule walked away almost sure Bayta would shoot since he hadn’t tampered with her feelings. I’m glad he was able to just walk away. I was hoping he would because of the empathy Asimov made me feel for the Mule, which may be the reason Bayta let him go. Part of the empathy came from the Mule’s story and the other part was the way he had been portrayed as the clown. Over all Asimov did a great job with Magnifico/Mule.
5. How do you feel this story compared to all the other stories that have made up the two Foundation novels we've read?
For me, the second part of this book was definitely the best and my favorite. The previous stories were all about strengthening the Foundation. This one was breaking it down; an intriguing balance that was done well and much more exciting for me. What can I say? I'm a fair weather fan.
6. What final thoughts do you have about Foundation and Empire?
This was very Empire Strikes Back (and I use this often since I don’t have any other examples to use, but now I do after reading this book!) when our heroes (Bayta/Toran/Foundation) are at their lowest. The Foundation is gone; the “bad guy” has gotten away with it and now the Second Foundation is threatened, if it can be found.
Honestly, I hope the Mule does find the Second Foundation and destroys it. I just don’t really see the Mule as a bad guy right now. And he really is just fulfilling Seldon’s plan. It’s just being done without the regular appearances of Seldon to pat the current leaders of the Foundation on the back and tell them what a good job everyone is doing. The Mule is just rebuilding the Galactic Empire a lot sooner than Seldon’s plan would have.
Now, the question is, will this blow up in the Mule’s face and what will the Second Foundation’s role be? Will they be able to stop the Mule or is he too powerful even for them?
I guess I’ll just have to find out in Second Foundation!