Well folks it is time for the first discussion of Foundation and Empire, the second book in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. This group read is hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. If you would like to follow all the discussions please visit this page. Also please note, that there will be spoilers below and probably in the comments.
1. In the opening chapters of Foundation and Empire we get to see things from the Imperial side. What are your thoughts on this part of the book? Were you surprised to find parts of the Galactic Empire that still seemed to be thriving?
I was surprised that there were parts of the Empire thriving. I know Seldon predicted that the Empire would fall. However, most of the first book in the series focused on the Foundation and I had completely forgotten about the Empire as an actual entity. I thought of it in a more abstract notion. Out of sight out of mind. And then in this book, Asimov introduces characters from the Empire and I was like “whoa…I thought they were dead.”
It was nice to visit the Empire. Being a political junkie, the Imperial story was fascinating. The machinations, while frustrating in real life, make for a fun read. And I found it interesting that not many people knew much about the Foundation. I was sucked into the story during the first book about their start and their fight for survival and they are almost completely unknown in the bigger picture. I wonder where Asimov is taking the story.
2. The examination of psychohistory continues in this book. What are your thoughts about the statement that was made: “Seldon’s laws help those who help themselves” in light of our previous discussions about Seldon, his predictions, and the interaction of the individuals that we are exposed to in the story?
I think many of us started to hint to this during the discussions of the first book. The actions of men like Salvor Hardin demonstrated how individuals could use a Seldon crisis to benefit and gain control. So far it seems that those who garner power are able to manipulate the unknown aspect of Seldon’s plan to instill fear and then act like a hero. However, the entire concept of psychohistory is still not clear to me.
3. How do you feel about Devers, Barr and Bel Riose? Did you like this section of the book and/or these characters? Was there anything about their stories that stood out to you, entertained you, annoyed you?
Out of the three, Bel Riose entertained me the most. His devotion to the Empire and the Emperor reminded me of Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. After a while, whenever he talked about the “magicians” and the threat of the Foundation I pictured Buzz talking about the Evil Emperor Zurg. I couldn’t help it. However, even with this, I still really enjoyed this part. Out of the three characters, my least favorite was Ducem Barr. His insistence that Seldon knew all started to annoy me. This may be due to the fact that I don’t believe that one man can have that much power and that I still don’t comprehend or understand Seldon’s true motive. I can be a pessimist when it comes to people with power. For some reason I just don’t think they have the better good at heart. It is hard not to have this feeling considering the experiences in America over the past 60 or 70 years. I’m referring to the Cold War, Vietnam War, and Watergate.
By the way, I don’t want it to come off that I’m not enjoying the book since I am finding this one even more entertaining than the first. Even with the Buzz Lightyear giggles.
4. Perhaps continuing from Question 2, do you agree or disagree, and what are your thoughts on, Barr’s devotion to Seldon and his belief that the “dead hand of Seldon” was guiding the events that led up to Riose’s undoing.
On one hand I can see why Barr is devoted to the idea that Seldon was guiding history given his own story. However, I also would get frustrated by his devotion. How does he know without a doubt that Seldon knew what he was doing? How could anyone be so sure especially since I have no clue what Seldon is up to? And I wasn’t surprised by Bel Riose’s undoing. Given his popularity among his troops he was a threat to the Emperor. Throughout history, political leaders do not like strong rivals who have a following. Yes this proves part of Seldon’s psychohistory on the surface. But I am being stubborn in my thinking. I still have a hard time believing that Seldon could foresee all off the events over centuries. I’m waiting for something to go awry. I’m wondering if I’ll be disappointed if nothing goes seriously wrong.
5. Did you think I was lying to you when I said in previous conversations that there are more female characters in books 2 and 3, LOL, since we didn’t get to Bayta until near the end of this portion of the read?
The thought did cross my mind.
6. We haven’t spent much time with them yet, but talk about your initial impressions of Toran and Bayta.
To be honest I am a little confused by this part of the story. I know it has only begun and all the T’s aren’t crossed and all the I’s aren’t dotted. But it seems to me that the planet Haven came out of the blue. It shouldn’t have been such a surprise since even in the first book the traders started to take a more prominent role in the history and Toran’s family are traders. And Bayta is a descendent of Hober Mallow, the kick ass trader in the first book. But I was still thrown a little bit with this new development. I’m not sure how I feel about Toran and Bayta’s plans to enlist the Mule’s assistance in causing the next Seldon crisis. However, given that the Foundation has increased in importance since the fall of the Empire I’m not surprised that the couple are in league with a group trying to overthrow the new power base. Especially since the leadership in the Foundation has taken, in my opinion, a turn for the worse. Now I have questions about Seldon’s real plan and the identity of this Mule.
I’m loving the suspense! It seems like as soon as I feel like I am finally figuring things out, Asimov throws something new at me and I have to reconsider my original thoughts. I just can’t get a firm grasp on what is really going on. And it may be frustrating at times, but it is a fun frustration.