Monday, February 20, 2012

Second Foundation Group Read, Part 1

The Science Fiction Experience is still going strong. I have continued with the group read of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Below are the questions (in bold) for the group read and my answers follow. There will be spoilers so beware if you haven’t read the book and would like to in the future. These books are a great read if you remain spoiler free. Now for a quick summary of the story so far:

In the first book of the series, Foundation, Hari Seldon predicted the fall of the Galactic Empire and a thirty thousand year period that would follow that would see the galaxy in the midst of barbarism. Instead of a thirty thousand year period of barbarism, he established two Foundations on each side of the galazy to help guide the galaxy to a Second Galactic Empire that would only take one thousand years. Men such as Salvor Hardin and Hober Mallow, guided the Foundation to success when threatened by stronger neighboring kingdoms to keep with Seldon’s Plan.

In the second book, Foundation and Empire, the Foundation was once again threatened but by the Galactic Empire as an ambitious general tried to conquer those kingdoms the Empire had lost hundreds of years ago. Once again these efforts failed and the Foundation survived. Then we were introduced to the Mule, a mutant who could manipulate emotions, an element Seldon’s Plan had not accounted for, who finally conquered the Foundation and the Galaxy.

We are now on the third book, Second Foundation, which continues the search for the Second Foundation by the Mule, who has sent out two men, Han Pritcher and Bail Channis, to assist. (On a side note: Han Pritcher/Han Solo. Bail Channis/Bail Organa. A Galactic Empire stretching across hundreds of planets. Hmmm…) The Mule is so close to discovering the location of the Second Foundation, but he seems to have met his match. Then (once again!) we jump several years to discover the Foundation is back on course and the Second Foundation may be involved more than we would have thought.

1. How have your perceptions of the Mule and his form of governing grown or changed, or not, after spending more time with him in this novel?

I don’t think my views have changed of the Mule. I was always rooting for him and we learn later in the book that his rule was a peaceful one, after he conquered the Foundation and after his entanglement with the Second Foundationers, which I think would have still been peaceful even without the Second Foundation intervening.

2. Having finally gotten a glimpse into the mysterious Second Foundation, what are your feelings/thoughts about this group and their methods (as revealed thus far)

And we questioned the Mule’s motives and actions! I find the Second Foundationers extremely sketchy, especially when we learn Channis was a spy of theirs and now we’ve learned something very interesting in the second half of the book, with the secret meeting between Pelleas Anthor, Dr. Darell, Jole Turbor, Dr. Elvett Semic and Homir Munn.

3. Has your understanding of the Seldon Plan changed at all with the revelations about the plan and the Second Foundationers near the end of this first part of our reading? Looking back does it alter any ideas you had about Seldon and his predictions?

“The laws of Psychohistory are statistical in nature and are rendered invalid if the actions of individual men are not random in nature. If a sizable group of human beings learned of key details of the Plan, their actions would be governed by that knowledge and would no longer be random in the meaning of the axioms of Psychohistory. In other words, they would no longer be perfectly predictable.”

I always felt it took an individual to make a crucial decision for the Foundation that kept with the Seldon Plan. We see that Seldon’s calculations are “dependant” on these random actions. But not I wonder if Hardin and Mallow’s actions were really random. We’re getting hints that the Second Foundation is infiltrating. So what if Seldon’s predictions only came true because these “random” actions were not so random? What if they worked because there was someone (or a group of people) secretly guiding things along but making certain these acts looked random? What if they were guiding Hardin and Mallow without their knowledge?

Then we get this, when Channis remembers the location of the Second Foundation: “Like Ebling Mis before him, he was conscious of only one vast, numbing surprise.”

What would surprise Channis and Mis so much? I can only think that it would be the true location of the Second Foundation being somewhere they least suspected because it was always said it was located on the other side of the galaxy. I think the Second Foundation was established on Terminus, along with the Foundation, in secret.

4. A simple one: How did you feel the first part of Second Foundation held up in comparison to the sections we've previously read?

It has the same flow and style. Not a whole lot of action as usual with a lot of talking and a lot of tension! Similar to the way the second half of Foundation and Empire ended, the first half of Second Foundation was quite tense. And we get resolutions to the tension without bloodshed which has usually been the standard throughout the series.

5. It is perhaps not surprising that Asimov's second important female character in the trilogy would be a direct descendent of the first. What do you think of young Arcadia "Arkady" Darell?

I like “Arkady” a lot. She’s smart and sassy and feels like a teenager. I remember when I was around the same age wanting to change my name to something more sophisticated so she definitely rang true. I’m looking forward to seeing what Asimov has in store for her and for the Foundation.

I have to say I’m glad I’ve participated in these group reads. This series has been a fun adventure. Return next week for the conclusion of the book and the series (and to see if I'm right about the Second Foundation)! And if you'd like to discuss Second Foundation, you can comment here or check out what others are saying here.


  1. I found my opinion changed about the Mule. In the last one, I didn't mind him and thought he was an okay dictator. In this one I started to hate his mind control methods. And Yes! The Second Foundation does seem sketchy. I can't wait to learn more!

  2. It is funny because I didn't remember the Mule part of this book at all and yet some of my previous read must have leaked through because while I was slightly sympathetic at the end of Foundation and Empire, I still had some strong feelings about his mind control methods and how oppressive that would be to the individuals being controlled. Still I was surprised that I disliked him so heartily after this part of the story.

    I did see the Han and Bail comparisons and love that. I know Lucas took inspiration from a lot of the things in his childhood that he enjoyed and I like to think Asimov's Foundation series would be one of those.

    I do not believe in peace at any price and I don't think a peaceful world, or in this story galaxy, is a good end if the cost for that peace is that everyone who could do anything to disrupt that peace are docile sheep who have an implanted fawning for their leader. Yuck!

    I'm loving that I've completely forgotten the location of the Second Foundation. Even I would be immune to the Mule's mind probing, LOL!

    I think Asimov does a pretty good job with writing a teenage girl, especially given the time period he wrote this in and how rare that kind of character would be coming from the pen of a male SF writer. There is some dated stuff in there, but the voice rings out true in spite of that.

  3. Hi
    I must admit that I didn't like the Mule in this story - I don't think I liked him in Foundation and Empire either when I reconsider - it was the Clown I liked and he wasn't really being himself then.
    I hadn't really considered that others might have had their minds tampered with until I read Carl's post - it's really very thought provoking!
    I do feel like I'm a total pushover with this story - I'm just being led everywhere (by the nose I think). I have no idea what's going to happen or where Second Foundation will actually be revealed to be - except I did wonder if it will be in front of us all along.
    Can't wait to see how this all ends.
    Lynn :D

  4. I'm being led everywhere right along with you and I don't have any excuse, I've read the darn thing! Ha!

  5. If certain things hadn't been revealed about the Second Foundation, I think my opinion of the Mule would have changed, because he was very obsessive when it came to finding the location of the Second Foundation. And Pritcher's hate for the Mule is well earned because nobody wants their free will taken from them.

    The more I think about it, I think that everyone is just bad: Seldon, Hardin, Mallow, the Galactic Empire, the Mule, the Second Foundationers lol

    They all had a hand in trying to manipulate situations for themselves. Though I will always have more sympathy for Hardin and the Mule. Hardin was trying to save Terminus and the Mule dealt with a lot of abuse and loneliness. For me, the others motivations are harder to sympathize with.

    And the further I read and think about it, the more I find Seldon a master manipulator and I can only think that his entire plan was just to set himself up as some god-like being, to be forever immortalized long after he's gone. I haven't really seen any good come from his "plan" yet. But I guess we will see!

  6. I think I've mentioned this somewhere in previous discussions, but I love how nothing is black or white in this story. It's complex, just like real history is.
    I'm very curious about the true location. I loved the way Part 1 ended.

  7. It is all very complex. I'm not sure everyone is "bad", but no one is "innocent", that is for sure. I think you have to remember that Seldon, at the very least, purported to do everything he did because he was trying to keep the fall of the Empire, and inevitability, to a minimum rather than the thousands of years of decline that could have happened. I feel his efforts were noble even if they took a lot of manipulation to maintain. Of course to feel this way you have to accept the premise that Seldon was indeed correct in his predictions, if not the story reads even more differently. Either way it makes for interesting reading. :)