Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
I finally picked up Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov, and I really liked it. I enjoyed Foundation, but for some reason Foundation and Empire just didn't quite do it for me so I waited a few weeks to read the next in the series. I admit part of my problem with Foundation and Empire might have been when and where I was reading it: since I was in the field, I was reading bits and pieces and didn't have a chance to really get into it. I had to put it down too often so that probably was part of the reason I wasn't really that impressed.
Five years have elapsed since the end of Foundation and Empire, and the Mule continues his search for the Second Foundation which he believes is the only thing that can prevent his rise. He puts two men in charge of finding the Second Foundation; one of them is his agent and another has not been manipulated by the Mule because the manipulation has a tendency to repress a certain amount of initiative on the Converted. In this first section, the readers have their first introduction to people of the Second Foundation.
The second section takes place a few years later, and the main characters are Bayta's son and granddaughter, Arkady Darrell. Additionally, there are sections from the point of view of the Second Foundation which is still dealing with the fall out from the Mule. His actions have severly impacted the plan, and they must become more involved and also focus on the individual rather than the masses to fix the problems. The problem is that a large part of the population has become lethargic because they believe the Second Foundation will always bail them out, while another is resentful of what they see as their lack of free will. Their mere knowledge of the Second Foundation impacts the plan. The later group is searching for the Second Foundation in order to destroy it. Both sections of this novel, but particularly the second, are filled with intrigue and questioning about destiny. The characters are also constantly questioning who can be trusted as different schemes and plans are revealed and discovered. Rather than see the Second Foundation as heroic, the Foundation on Terminus sees them as something sinister.
I of course also enjoyed seeing a female in such a prominent role again; actually Arkady wasn't the only important female in the novel, and the other one uses her apparent dizziness as a disguise. While Arkady had her moments of annoyingness, it was because of her age (14), not her gender.