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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Foundation And Empire

Copyright 1952 by Isaac Asimov

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

I first read this in 1968 and most recently on the 5th January 2003

Four hundred years have passed since the Foundation was established on the planet Terminus, on the periphery of the old Empire. The Foundation's influence across its corner of space has waxed as the Galactic Empire wanes and rumours of the Foundation's invincibility, of the power of its 'magicians', reach back to what is left of the old Empire.

The foundation's future seems assured, indeed its government has relaxed into a comfortable assurance of its superiority. Hari Seldon's psychohistorical predictions have gained the power of religious dogma. The Foundation is unswerving in its belief that nothing can threaten it.

Now, however, two military threats arise.

In the Empire, Bel Riose is a young, successful and highly ambitious general. He wants to make his mark upon history and rumours of the far-off Foundation give him the campaign he desires. He'll bring the power of the Empire to bear on the Foundation.

On another world, far from both the Empire and the Foundation, a new leader, the Mule, has arisen, possessed of immense and mysterious talents. He is already building his own empire. Now he too is wants the Foundation.

There is a problem that the Foundation has overlooked: psychohistory predicts the results of the social forces of the millions, the billions, of ordinary people. The Mule, however, is not an ordinary person, he's a mutant. The effects of his actions may be totally unforeseen by psychohistory. Perhaps the Foundation is at far great risk than it realises.

Well I enjoyed this. It's still a very good tale but it's the psychohistory stuff, this idea of future events foretold, of Seldon's hologram reappearing down through the centuries to warn of imminent dangers, that enthralls one.

Indeed as a bratlet, I happily constructed many fantasies of a distant time to come in which my hologram would appear, an aged but surprisingly handsome Nostradamus, to future generations of Maxims and Maxettes on some far-flung colony world; declaiming, amid the hushed silence of the crowded millions, weighty words to solve the problems of their time:

"The Empire has is no more but the Palais still swings on a Saturday night";
"A blonde girl wearing blue shift enters from the right";
"Yeah, yeah, the Stones. Just give me a fag and one of those glasses. My throat's bloody killing me. Ta. What's going on with this thing, the little green light's on. Pete, the little green light's on. What's that mean then? Oh bugger"
"Rockall Northeasterly six or seven decreasing four, wintry showers, good".

The point is, of course, that the Foundation series was great for its time and even now it remains an important and enjoyable story, but it doesn't exactly rock in this, the 21st century.

Loaded on the 31st January 2003.
Cover of Foundation And Empire
Cover art by Stephen Youll

Reviews of other works with covers by Stephen Youll:
Spin State
Spin Control
Terminal Cafe
Second Foundation
The Collapsium
To Crush The Moon