Foundation and Empire (1952) – Isaac Asimov

The second book in the foundation series ups the stakes for humanity a bit, as we get a glimpse inside the still crumbling Empire, and the reclusive Foundation and the traders that have sprung from it. We learn that the Foundation is in someways becoming corrupt as well, as some despotism is occuring, and it seems only the traders may be keeping the Foundation’s tenents alive.

But there is more trouble to come, and the hope for humanity may rest on the second, hidding Foundation at the other end of the galactic arm, because something has happened that psycho-historian Hari Seldon did not plan on, a human with mutant abilities (not the first, and surely not to be the last).

Known as the Mule, this mutant has brought the Foundation to its knees, and seems about to bring all of Seldon’s plans to shorten the gap of barbarity between the fall of the Empire and the rise of the next one to nought.

Now, a small group of people are fleeing the Mule, his forces, and the crumbling Empire in search of the other Foundation, in hopes of saving humanity’s fall into another Dark Age.

There is politics, maneuvering, chases, and manipulation throughout the book, though that being said it took me a little longer to get into this one than the first tale in the series. And having said that the identity of the Mule when it was revealed wasn’t really a surprise. It was kind of a given. I think the only people it surprised were the characters because of how they were written.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this entry, I really did, and I like that we aren’t given all the information, we are given slices of happenings and putting it all together as we leap from location to location, and historical moment to historical moment.

Asimov weaves an epic tale, that spans worlds, years and lives, but consequently, his character development suffers because of it. At least this time, there were a couple more female characters involved.

And while his tale isn’t quite so heady as I feared they would be, a fear that kept me from his novels up countless times in the past, I also don’t think I would have enjoyed them as much, had I read them as a teen or a young twenty-something.

That being said, these novels, when they were released, were no doubt, absolutely revolutionary when they were first published in the 1950s.

I’m going to continue my journeys through the fall and rise of humanity with the next novel in the series, Second Foundation.

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