The time has come for the first discussion of Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov. This year I joined a groupread of the Foundation trilogy hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings and this is the last novel of the trilogy. Please note that there will be spoilers in the discussion and in the comments.
1. How have your perceptions of the Mule and his form of governing grown or changed, or not, after spending more time with him in this novel?
When we first met the Mule in the previous novel I felt bad for him. In fact, I was cheering him on since he didn’t seem like such an evil dictator. However, his obsession to find the Second Foundation and to destroy it changed my opinion completely. I started to see him as a madman thirsting for complete power and control. I should have seen this before since he was controlling people’s minds but I felt bad for him in the last novel. Also reading more about Hans Pritcher and how easily he was manipulated in the beginning made me realize how powerful the Mule was. Then seeing Pritcher’s anger at the end reinforced in my mind that the Mule was not a nice guy.
2. Having finally gotten a glimpse into the mysterious Second Foundation, what are your feelings/thoughts about this group and their methods (as revealed thus far)
To be honest the glimpse that I saw wasn’t enough for me to form a complete opinion. However, to answer the question I was slightly disappointed that they also used a form of mind control that is eerily similar to the Mule’s power. After liking the Mule and then despising him, when I learned that the Second Foundationers also used mind control—well it put me off completely. Once again, the “heroes” of the series aren’t that much better than the “bad” guys. I’m curious how all of this will wrap up in the final pages and if I will start to respect the Second Foundationers.
3. Has your understanding of the Seldon Plan changed at all with the revelations about the plan and the Second Foundationers near the end of this first part of our reading? Looking back does it alter any ideas you had about Seldon and his predictions?
I don’t know if I am missing something or if I am forgetting something (I read the first half of this book over a week ago) but I don’t feel all that much closer to understanding Seldon’s Plan. In fact, I’ve completely given up trying to figure it out and now I am just enjoying the ride and hoping at the end I’ll have that “A ha” moment. The books and characters have taken so many twists and turns that I just can’t keep up anymore. And that is a good thing. I hate when I figure stuff out too early.
4. A simple one: How did you feel the first part of Second Foundation held up in comparison to the sections we’ve previously read?
For me, each book gets better. His character development keeps improving and his storytelling is intriguing. I thought for sure after I completed Foundation and Empire that the next one couldn’t compete. And I’m glad to learn that I was wrong completely.
5. It is perhaps not surprising that Asimov’s second important female character in the trilogy would be a direct descendent of the first. What do you think of young Arcadia “Arkady” Darell?
I really enjoyed her interaction with the man who asked to come into her window. She was sassy and fun. I’m curious to find out more about her. I also like how she is portrayed as a know-it-all teenager. I remember those days.
If you would like to follow all of the discussions please visit this page. Next week will be the final discussion of this trilogy. Back to my reading.
I LOVE that title!
LOL…a little confusing I know.
That is a fun blog post title.
I’ve got to admit that I was worrying about some of you feeling too sorry for a guy who has the power (and uses it) to control people’s minds and take away their free will. LOL!
I’m fascinated in this read through how there isn’t necessarily and black and white good guy/bad guy thing going on. We get some good guy stuff going on with characters like Bayta and Arkady, but for the most part the characters we have cheered for have all been very flawed and manipulative and you can only cheer for them if you happen to be on their side. I wonder how much of this Asimov intended when he wrote the story.
He does get better with the storytelling as the series progresses and I think that is in large part because the idea was knocked together so quickly between him and his editor and as the series progressed he was able to actually put some good thought into it and was able to write a better story around those initial ideas.
I do like that the Seldon plan, although the brainchild of one man, isn’t something that could be managed by just one man but that it took him creating these Foundations and setting various wheels in motion to keep the fall of the Empire down to less time than it would have done otherwise.
And no matter how dubious the Second Foundation is and the First Foundation was, it is interesting to think that, according to Seldon, the downfall was going to happen anyway and that the years of barbarism would have been many times longer without his interventions. Do his ends justify his means? Will be very interesting to talk more about the Second Foundation in comparison to the Mule’s methods as we read on!
Arkady’s introduction is great. It is such a fun opening to her part of the story.
His exploration of good guys/bad guys is interesting. Maybe he is causally pointing out that all of us are flawed human beings. I can’t speak for the group, but I know I’ve made some mistakes in my life. These books and discussions have made me think about other books and movies with the traditional good guy. Is it easier to cheer someone on that we can relate to in some way? Not that I have mind-controlling powers and if I did I would waste it by having everyone bring me chocolate. I don’t have a desire to control the world, but I do like chocolate.
The Seldon plan, even though I have no clue as to what it really is, is intriguing. And having two foundations to make sure it goes according to plan is adding to my curiosity. Hopefully I will finally understand it. I’m curious if my initial reaction to the Second Foundationers will change.
Arkady was a delightful character. I’m excited to read more about her and the new mystery.
It certainly could be. I know that I’m drawn to characters who are flawed in some way, although I think modern literature sometimes crosses a line with characters who are too flawed. I still like to think that in spite of our manifold mistakes and the ease with which we can become selfish that we are capable of doing more and being more than those mistakes and I like literature and films that give me those kinds of heroes and heroines.
I find it very odd that I didn’t really pick up on the dual nature of all these characters the first time I read the book. I also find it odd that Asimov wrote this kind of thing in a time where we at least believe the stereotypes were that stories were more black and white, particularly in the SFF genres. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule and those are fun to find.
I agree with you Carl. I’m drawn to stories about real people who aren’t saints, but try to grow and make amends. Let’s face it, life puts us in difficult places and sometimes we don’t always make the right choice. How we react and make amends defines us….I think that is what I am trying to say.
I like the fact that there aren’t any characters that are purely good or purely evil; the complexity is one of the things that make this book unique. Not gonna like, I was a bit worried in the first book that there wouldn’t be strong characterization because we didn’t stay with characters for very long, but the more we read the more I love the way that Asimov is able to create such distinctive characters despite not spending as much time with them as other authors might.
It is refreshing not to have good characters that are too good. They always make me feel bad about myself 🙂 And I find that they are usually totally unrealistic. Give me a flawed person who tries to make good. I can relate to that and cheer him or her on. I liked the structure of the first novel, but if all the novels were like that with little character development I think it would have grown old fast.
Thank you. It would be so nice to come back here again… with my love, nia
I could actually just send you some chocolate now! You’re not mind controlling me right?
I can’t help feeling it’s a bit like out of the frying pan into the fire with the Second Foundationers and as TBM says it almost feels as though Asimov is making a point and that no matter who is in control they won’t be perfect.
It does seem like that is his point. I think so many of us want our leaders and politicians to be in the job for the right reasons, but history and the situation today has shown that is not always the case. I wasn’t expecting this kind of commentary from Asimov’s time though. This was before Vietnam and Watergate. I find it fascinating how observant he was and how he crafted stories around this notion.
tee hee – just went back and had a look at your title! Very good.
I should never add a title before my first cup of tea.
I’m starting to wonder if we ever will have a “a-ha” moment about Seldon’s plan. If it will remain ambiguous to the end or not. Either way, I don’t like to figure out things either, and I don’t mind unanswered questions at the end of a novel. It keeps you thinking.
The characterization is definitely getting better. I know he didn’t focus too much on individuals in the first one for a reason, but that doesn’t keep me from really appreciating it here.
I have higher hopes for the Second Foundation, and I love Arkady, so I’m looking forward to this last section.
I have almost forgotten about the whole Seldon plan and I’m just enjoying the ride. An a ha moment would be nice, but so far I have no complaints about the series. I’m starting the last section tonight. I’m excited and kinda sad to see it end.