Last week we started our group discussion of Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. Today is the next and final discussion of this novel. This group read has been hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. If you would like to follow all of the discussions, please visit this page. Please note, that if you have not read the book, there will be spoilers in the discussion below. Furthermore, if you have not been a part of the group but would still like to add your comments, feel free to do so. This discussion is open to everyone.
One of the issues that we talked about last week on some of the blogs was the uninspired, or in my case, a book cover that intimidated me since I thought this novel would be too scientific and it wouldn’t excite me. Some members of the group requested a picture of the cover. I wasn’t able to find one online so I snapped a picture of it with my camera. It isn’t the best quality, but hopefully it gives you an idea of why when I saw this book, I thought, “ugh.” And this has been another great example of you can’t judge a book by its cover since I loved the story.
Salvador Hardin was the first character in the book that we got to spend any significant time with. What are your thoughts on the grande finale of his plotting, scheming and maneuvering to get the Foundation through to the next Seldon crisis?
This book is somewhat different from many of the books I have read over the past few years. For example, I recently wrote about The Lord of the Rings, which included a lot of plotting and scheming. And in Tolkien’s novels, you have the clear bad guys and the good guys. The good guys may have made mistakes or lost their judgment at times, but you knew deep down that they were good. I found myself cheering on the hobbits and their companions. From the beginning of Foundation, I couldn’t recognize who I was supposed to be cheering on and that included Hari Seldon. At the trial, he maneuvers his way to set up his foundation on Terminus. When Gaal finds out that they are given a short amount of time to prepare for the move he is upset. However, Seldon had already been preparing for such a move for the past two and half years. I got a sense that Seldon was quite a political schemer. But since we are only introduced to Seldon, I felt that I should cheer for him. But I didn’t trust him completely either.
The next part involves Hardin. Once again, I found it hard determining the “good” guy. Hardin acts like a politician of today, maneuvering behind the scenes to force an outcome that is beneficial to his power. Maybe I cheered for Hardin since he lived on Terminus, which is a small planet that is out of the way. Another reason why I cheered him on was that he seemed to figure out Seldon’s ultimate motives and was able to use this knowledge to place his enemies in impossible situations. Also, Terminus doesn’t have an army. Instead they are scholars who provide technology to other planets in order to safeguard their own situation in the galaxy. I am a sucker for cheering on the underdogs, which explains why I don’t win many bets. So when Hardin travels to Anacreon and is threatened by Wienis it was fun to see that the “smart” guy outmaneuvered the bully with the weapons.
What are your thoughts on the way in which control/manipulation to achieve Foundation ends began to shift with The Traders?
This progression of the novel made me enjoy the book even more. Asimov was in touch with the way of the world during his own times and in history. And as it turns out, over the past 60 something years, human behavior has not changed much. If there is power to be seized, there will be those who will do everything they can to grab it. The traders were no different. Some of them saw the benefits of using religion to increase their own personal wealth. When Ponyets is sent to rescue Gorov from Askone it was amazing to watch Asimov’s skill of storytelling. Gorov’s ultimate purpose is to ensnare Askone into purchasing atomics and accepting religion to control the atomics. Ponyets, is a trader and his sole purpose is to make his quota and to make money. And he succeeds on both counts. Asimov’s section on The Traders shows how power slips away from religious control and starts to rest on money. Does this sound familiar in today’s world?
One of the interesting things about Seldon’s psychohistory is how much one man can actually affect it. In Foundation we see characters like Hardin and Mallow as key figures for positioning things just right to work towards Seldon’s later predictions. Do you see this as a contradiction to what Seldon said about psychohistory at the beginning of our story or part of an overall plan? Discuss.
This is a tough question for me to answer. As of now, I really don’t understand Seldon’s plan. So far it seems that certain characters like Hardin are moving Seldon’s plan along by navigating past a crisis. I remember in the beginning when Seldon is talking with Gaal about moving to Terminus. He tells Gaal, “in a plan such as ours, the actions of others are bent to our needs.” To me, this implies that actions of certain people are meant to follow a certain path. However, I have this nagging feeling that it won’t all go according to plan. To be able to predict the actions of individuals over hundreds of years seems somewhat impossible. Yet, since I don’t know Seldon’s plan I can’t determine if this was his ultimate goal, to have men like Hardin and Mallow act the way they did. I have a feeling there is a lot more to the plan.
Did you see similarities or differences between the way in which Salvador Hardin and Hober Mallow operated and what are your thoughts about this final section of Foundation? Would you have been content as a reader back then with how everything played out?
Both Hardin and Mallow had different backgrounds and yet they both operated in the same fashion. For me, both of them used their wits to outfox their opponents. They didn’t always use savory methods, but as I mentioned in one of answers above, not many characters in this book have.
The end of the book was exciting and yet disappointing all at the same time for me. None of my questions about Seldon were answered. I still don’t know where things are heading and how or why. If I was reading this as the installments came out I probably would have been frustrated if I didn’t know when the next issue would come out to answer some of my questions.
Has your concept/thoughts of what Seldon was trying to do changed at all since the book began?
I never got a firm grasp on Seldon’s plan so I don’t think my concept has changed since I never had one completely formed. Good thing I like mysteries.
Any final thoughts on the story as a whole, its structure, what it did or did not accomplish, how it worked for you, etc?
Overall I enjoyed reading this novel. The methods he used were a bit unorthodox and it was interesting to see how he pulled together so many characters over time in order to show the progression of the problems in the galaxy. I didn’t really connect with the characters, but I connected with the story and the evolution of the story. Would I want every novel to be like this? Certainly not. But I found it refreshing to delve into this story and to experience a different way of doing things. I was somewhat disappointed that the ending was not really an ending. I guess I will have to track down a copy of the next book…hopefully my library will have it.