Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book 64: Foundation and Empire

Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov

This novel is of course the sequel to Asimov’s Foundation. The first novel dealt with three different crises in the development of the Foundation, while this one deals with two separate ones. By the time of the first crisis in this novel occurs, the Foundation is starting to come to the attention of the Empire, and one particularly ambitious general decides to conquer the Foundation for the Empire. In addition to this, the forces that will eventually lead to the next crisis are beginning to show themselves although they won’t come to a front for a long time. As the Foundation’s power and wealth has increased, its old establishment leadership has fallen into the same types of stagnation as the original Empire.

The second part of the novel addresses a crisis that Seldon did not predict for the future because his science is based on the forces of the masses, and does not take into consideration the power an individual alone could have. In this case, one person had a genetic mutation that gives him considerable power and allows him to conquer worlds. Personally, considering how scientifically based the rest of the series was, I wasn’t exactly too into this shift to more fantastical elements; however, the second half of the novel was definitely a better read than the first half.

The first half just wasn’t really holding my attention. The second half was more able to do so, and there was finally a female main character. Of course, she was introduced as a young bride, but eventually we discover that she graduated with honors (or the equivalent) with a history degree, and at one point, Asimov mentions a few women as factory workers. From the reactions of the remains of the Empire upon meeting Bayta, Bayta does seem to have more freedom and independence as a woman from the Foundation than women in the Empire. Bayta is actually the only character intelligent enough to piece everything together and figure out the source of the threat. Of course, having one incredibly intelligent woman does not make up for the lack of females in other areas, or the fact that the few other women in the series are either shrewish or weak, thus implying that Bayta is an exception to her gender.

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