Classic sci-fi book review of FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE ( Isaac Asimov)


In Book Two of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE, the path forward predicted by Hari Seldon through his science of "psychohistory" continues. To reiterate the overarching concept of this series, it concerns a vast galactic empire which a brilliant psychohistorian (Seldon) has predicted will soon collapse within a few decades, which will then be followed by 30 000 years of dark, barbaric times before a second galactic empire will eventually rise. With the science of psychohistory, Seldon has arranged for certain events to occur over the coming centuries which will reduce the coming Dark Ages from 30 000 years to a mere 1000 years. In the first novel, simply called FOUNDATION, a series of three crises (subsequently termed "Seldon Crises") happened during the first century after Seldon's death which set history on course to conform with Seldon's predictions. Each time, a pre-recorded holographic message of Seldon has appeared in the Time Vault to explain what was happening and to give instructions. On some occasions, no one was present to hear the message.


Now in this book, Seldon's plans are further put to the test. First, an ambitious young general commanding an armada of the still powerful dying Empire, decides to invade the planet Terminus, on which the group of settlers tasked with the eventual rise of a second empire, who call themselves The Foundation, have settled centuries earlier. A war breaks out between the powerful ships of the Empire and those of The Foundation, but this results inevitably in the defeat of the Empire's ships, just as Hari Seldon predicted two centuries earlier.


However, a more terrifying threat has now risen. A mysterious conqueror, a powerful mutant known only as The Mule has now begun invading various planets of the former Empire. Because of his telepathic powers, The Mule can predict how an adversary will react and therefore which strategy to employ. The Mule is a factor which Hari Seldon had not taken into account in his plans to bring about in less than a thousand years a glorious new Galactic Empire. Various prominent members of The Foundation gather at The Time Vault to get instructions from the long-dead Seldon, but to their horror his pre-recorded holographic message is completely off-track and irrelevant to what is now happening with The Mule. The leaders of The Foundation will have to fend for themselves and will no longer be able to rely on the science of psychohistory to survive and defeat The Mule's powerful fleet of warships. Meanwhile, The Mule, with his psychic abilities, is predicting their every move, is able to control minds, and is invading world after world.


NOTE: I will be covering the third book, titled SECOND FOUNDATION, in next month's book review. Stay tuned!


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