Monday, February 6, 2012

Foundation and Empire Group Read, Conclusion

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!


  1. I'm having a hard time seeing the Mule as the bad guy as well. I don't know if I want him to find the Second Foundation to destroy it, but I am curious what will happy when the two meet.

    That sucks that you found out about the Mule via Wikipedia. This has happened to me when I read reviews by other bloggers. I try to skim to get the idea and then I find out too much.

  2. Especially with series I've learned to avoid Wikipedia. Sometimes even if you're just reading about one book in a series, you find out too much about following ones. But luckily Asimov had so many interesting things going on, the twist about The Mule was just one part.
    It's been so interesting to me to see other readers so pro-Mule, because although I felt for him, he still represented evil in taking away free will. It makes me want to go through it again and see if I get a different perspective.
    Great comparison to Star Wars. Every time I hear the name Magnifico, it makes me think of Magneto from X-Men. Another mutant trying to gain power for somewhat understandable reasons.

  3. The Mule has the underdog thing going on which made it easy for me to be on his side, just like the Foundation in the first book.

    I think Asimov might be trying to say that all these grand schemes and manipulation will only get you so far before it all blows up and something like a mutant or free will is going to throw a wrench in the plans, and you really shouldn't be manipulating people with nefarious means.

    So, even though I'm pro-Mule, it's probably not going to last and his plans are going to fall apart.

  4. She was a bit domestic, but not so much that I feel there is anything too damning about it. I think sometimes authors can have a tendency to move female characters too far away from gender roles, as if women in real life don't actually do any of the work that is sometimes wrapped up in gender stereotypes. I actually liked Asimov for this in that Bayta is shown to be a strong character who can still be a more rounded one, not too much one way or the other.

    The fight was a bit awkward, but I give Asimov kudos for trying. I also give him kudos for having Toran actually prepare a meal. It is a brief throwaway scene but to me shows a slightly more balanced relationship than some fiction of the time which would advocate that the kitchen is solely the woman's role.

    I've learned the hard way as well to stay away from Wiki until I've finished a book. They do have a tendency to spring spoilers on one. I'm glad you still enjoyed the story despite the revelation.

    I'm glad Bayta didn't kill him. It would have taken her from being a strong character who had the courage to do what had to be done and made her more of a cold blooded killer and I think it would have ruined the character.

    I'm not a fan of the Mule. I'm a fan of the character, he is a great character, but his mind-control/stripping individuals of their free will is not any more attractive to me than the manipulation of the various politicians we've seen in the previous stories and in fact to me is worse because at least the individuals under those regimes have the free will to buck the system if they see fit. The Mule would essentially have folks in a state of stupor and to me that is worse. His ends may be more noble...debatable...but it doesn't justify the means.

  5. When I start reading Second Foundation I'm going to listen to songs like Uprising and Another Brick In The Wall to get me in the right frame of mind lol

    The one thing I wonder with the Mule is what would have happened to him if he hadn't used his power at all. Would it have stagnated, making him ill or crazy? It's too bad there wasn't someone like Bayta to befriend him when he was young to maybe help him use his power for good, like helping people who were depressed or suicidal since he could manipulate someone's mood.

    I really love how Asimov wrote this character, that I can almost forgive him for what he is doing. I like it for the story. But a big no-no in our time and place.