Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov
Only a few days ago, I was bitching about the fact that T.C. Boyle's treatment of his characters really affected my ability to enjoy and get through the novel The Women - they didn't appeal to me, and as a result, the book wasn't really getting me all too interested. I read Foundation and Earth shortly afterwards, and I wasn't really that into the main characters in this one, either. However, the plot was so interesting that I kept on reading and more or less devoured the book (and considered cancelling on a night out just so I'd be able to finish it - I'm not quite that nerdy yet, though).
I guess the main thing is that despite the character flaws, the novel still has an interesting enough premise and a forward moving plot to keep the reader engaged (if on the other hand, you're writing a character-driven novel, well, it helps to have characters that are worth a damn). Foundation and Earth picks up right where Foundation's Edge left off. Trevize is not sure why he made the decision he did, and feels like Earth might be the key to figuring out what inspired him. His friend Pelorat who seemed only recently content to stay on Gaia forever decides to join him, and fulfill a life long dream of discovering the planet of origin. Bliss tags along a representative of Gaia, and Pelorat's new lover.
I guess the thing I didn't really like about the characters that much is that Trevize was just a little too full of himself at times, and I got a little tired of Bliss's debates about Gaia vs. the Isolates (I don't want to get too far into it without also giving away the end of the last novel). Bliss just really didn't do it for me. I also felt like Pelorat was given the short end of the stick as the dowdering old professor, and perhaps one of the reasons I got annoyed with Trevize is that he seemed to act like a know it all in comparison to the older man, who happily took it and bowed to Trevize's "oh so superior" knowledge.
As I said, I loved the search for Earth, the analyzing and shifting through old mythology and legend - have I mentioned that I like Battlestar Galactica? And Firefly (which may not have a search for Earth but definitely has terraforming!). The travelers find more vague clues as they go, and finally find another group of planets that were originally settled by Earth, though not so successfully. They find grids to three of them, and search for more clues to Earth on each of them, all of which only show humanity's failures. They also pick up a random traveler, who I really didn't like, and I especially didn't like Bliss's relationship with the person, feeling like it made her even more annoying.
However, as I said, the plot was definitely interesting. Apparently this is the novel that really ties the Robot and the Foundation series together, and after I read the two Foundation prequels, I'll definitely be starting the Robot mysteries. Well, it might depend on what's at the PX tomorrow as well. One thing that I found rather dissatisfying about the end was that Trevize finally gets the answer he's been looking for but it wasn't exactly built on anything previously, and Earth really had nothing to do with his answer. In fact, it kind of opens up more questions, and the book definitely didn't feel like a final conclusion.