“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.” Isaac Asimov
On January 1st of this year I sat down and cracked open the novel Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. This novel was the first of the Foundation Trilogy. Today I am posting my last discussion on the final installment of this series. This group read has made me appreciate the series and the author. I am a little sad that the group read is at an end. However, I’m sure there will be more.
Please note that there will be spoilers in the discussion and comments. If you haven’t participated in the group read but would like to make comments please feel free to do so. It is open to all. Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings hosted the group read. If you would like to follow all of the discussions please visit this page.
1. Now that the trilogy is over, discuss your feelings on Asimov’s portrayal of female characters?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t notice the lack of female characters in the first novel until someone mentioned it. Then I started to pay attention. I was quite pleased that the female characters were depicted as brave and intelligent. Both Bayta and Arkady were fun to follow. And Lady Callia turned out to be a great character. She started off as ditzy gal and it turned out that she was a secret agent for the Second Foundation. I really liked that twist to the plot. Considering he wrote this series in the 1950s I am surprised that he created strong female protagonists. However, I feel somewhat guilty, like I’m not giving the author enough credit for treating women as equal.
2. After all the back and forth mind control of the first part of Second Foundation, what was your state of mind reading this second section of the book? Were you suspicious of everyone? Did you figure things out? Were you just going along for the ride?
I was suspicious of everyone. As we’ve discussed in the past, none of the “heroes” acted like typical heroes. Most in fact were flawed. I figured out the Mule’s identity in the second novel, however in this one, I didn’t figure out any of the surprises. I think I finally adjusted to his writing style and sat back and enjoyed the ride. He loves twists and turns. And I found it was more enjoyable not to try too hard to see who wasn’t who they were supposed to be. It was fun at the end to have that “A ha” moment.
3. Throughout the three novels we were shown a couple of versions of Trantor. Which is more appealing to you? Which would you rather visit?
As a person who loves history, I think I would prefer the remains of Trantor. I can’t wait to visit Egypt at some point in my life and to see the pyramids. I thought of Trantor as an ancient civilization and that archeologists like Indiana Jones would love to find the secrets of the society. And the library reminded me of the ancient library of Alexandria. Wouldn’t it be cool to discover a place like this?
4. How have your thoughts about Hari Seldon, his plan, and either or both Foundations changed, or not, during the course of these three novels?
The Seldon plan…refresh my memory again, what was that? At first I was all about figuring out the plan. As we continued with the books, my interest in the plan started to wane. Then I completely forgot all about it. The story turned into more of a political thriller to me. And, maybe unfortunately, I forgot all about Seldon.
5. What, if anything, surprised you in this last half of the book? How do you feel Second Foundation held up compared to the other two books in the trilogy?
I think the last installment was my favorite of the series. But I’ve said this with the other two. Maybe I just prefer the one that is fresher in my memory. I haven’t read a lot of series, but the ones I have, have let me down somewhat. This series did not let me down at all. In fact, I think Asimov kept picking up his game.
6. Did any themes stand out for you in this series? What are you taking away from the experience of reading the Foundation trilogy?
Oh I am never good at analyzing themes. It reminds me too much of school. I prefer to read for enjoyment these days. However, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to notice that free will was a major part of the story. The Mule and the Second Foundation controlled the minds of civilians. At first the Mule’s methods didn’t bother me. But then I woke up and realized how much I would hate not having my own opinions. People who know me, know I’m opinionated.
I’m glad I joined this group read. Asimov is one of those writers I heard about, but never really considered exploring his works. I ended up loving the series and now I would love to explore more of his novels. And I am less intimidated by classic science fiction.
You know dear TBM, I will come back for this series, ah, when I read them… I am not a good reader as you, I can’t find time, home, photographs, daily things… But I want to share with you, Thank you, have a nice weekend, with my love, nia
You do keep yourself pretty busy Nia. I’m always amazed by all the things you do!
The “less intimidating” part is music to my ears. Don’t get me wrong, I love discussing science fiction with long time fans who’ve read everything, but if I could fill one niche in the blogosphere it would be to encourage people to read science fiction and fantasy and gothic/suspense/horror who firmly believe that this isn’t their kind of reading. Because I believe a good story is a good story regardless of genre, and I remember how wonderful I felt when I discovered that Asimov was accessible and that his stories were actual page-turners and not scientific treatises.
I love the Lady Callia turned out to be more than the fawning over a distant and possible abusive man. Once you realize who she is it is fun to think back on Stettin’s internal dialogue and realize that all his pompous narcissism was for naught and that he was actually being manipulated by this secret agent from the Second Foundation.
I too think this series gets better and better. I imagine part of that is that since the story started out with a quick thrown together idea that it got better as Asimov had time to dwell more on it and build a story around the original ideas. I also think the story gets better because as all this mind-control and behind the scenes stuff is revealed it starts to cause you to look at what you’ve read previously in a new light and really gets the imagination going.
Thanks so much for participating in this. I felt like this time through was a real wild ride and I enjoyed the heck out of it.
It was a lot of fun. And I am really starting to rethink all science fiction and fantasy novels. Before I thought it would be way over my head. Science was never my strong suit. But the group reads that we have done have changed my opinion completely. I’m still tracking down the Mistborn series for this spring. I may just order it today to have it in time.
Callia may be my favorite character. At first I couldn’t stand her and then I found out and I was in awe of her skill. It would be hard to act that stupid.
I was in a used bookstore yesterday and they had a lot of Asimov there. I almost bought some, but I was heading to a football match and didn’t want to keep track of them after a couple of beers and the rain. But you are making me a fan.
There are certainly plenty of “scientific” science fiction novels out there, and to be honest the only ones I’ve ever enjoyed are ones that have a darn good story wrapped around them which entertained me even if I felt like a drooling, blathering idiot about the science parts.
I’m not sure when I want to start reading Mistborn, but will shoot around a few ideas on email soon and we’ll all figure something out. Are you willing to co-host the reading of the first book with me?
Callia is a trip. The more time away from the book the more I enjoy her.
Another really good Asimov read is The Currents of Space. I’ve seen some very goofy covers for it so don’t let those fool you. It is a really good story.
I’ll have to keep Currents of Space in mind. To be honest I thought all science fiction would involve just science and not much of a story. Dune and the Foundation series have changed my mind completely. I’m already for next year to see if we do other group reads of classic science fiction. I’m with you, I like a good story. If the author is just trying to prove his/her smarts and can’t tell a good story I won’t make it through it.
I’ve never co-hosted. That sounds like a new and exciting challenge. I would be honored to join forces with you. Just let me know what I need to do. Thanks for the offer.
Oh and I learned from the Foundation series not to judge an Asimov by its cover. All of my copies were pretty bland.
One of the biggest complaints of really hard core, science-lovin’ SF fans is that there isn’t enough “science” in science fiction. I don’t reside in that camp at all. Give me a good story any day, I can live without the headache inducing science. 🙂
I want you and one or two others to help with taking a section of the book, writing the questions, and taking the lead on the discussions for that week. I’ve learned through this Foundation thing that taking on all the question asking myself is too big of a commitment. Plus I get tired of my own thought processes and want the questions of others to lead me down different paths.
Thanks, I’m happy that you are up for it!
I’m definitely excited for Mistborn.
One of the things that I’ve loved about the groupreads is that I’ve picked up a lot of books that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have, only to discover that I love them. “Dune” and “The Way of Kings” are now among my favorite books, and I don’t think that I’d have read either if it wasn’t for the readalongs.
I had expected Arkady to be my favorite character in this book, but the ending changed my mind. Now it’s definitely Callia; I hadn’t expected much of her, but when she turned out to be a spy I was highly impressed!
I ordered the Mistborn books today. I’m really looking forward to delving into them. Hopefully they will arrive in time. Like you, these group reads are helping me discover new authors and genres. Also, I like making new blogging friends. The books have been fun to discuss and to view from other people’s eyes.
Callia was one of my favorite characters in this section. I was so happy when I realized that the dumb mistress thing was an act and that she was really a manipulative agent of the Second Foundation.
If it wasn’t for that twist, I think her character would have let me down completely. He had done so well introducing strong women and then we met her. I was like “what are you thinking?” Then he showed me that patience is best.
Indeed… and Callia herself must have had a lot of patience to put up with everything she did, lol.
So true. I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off. I would want to shout, “you’re such an idiot and mean!”
You hit the nail on the head with your Seldon Plan comment. It’s actually exactly how I felt. I really had to think back to what the Plan actually was – it had just gone out of my mind and I’d moved on.
I did feel that the females in the story were a little old fashioned but it’s hardly surprising given when the books were written and I thought Asimov really was very brave for including such strong female roles.
I kept forgetting about the plan and sometimes I was like was there even a plan. Usually this kind of thing would have annoyed me, but Asimov held the story together for me that it really just slipped my mind.
I didn’t notice that they were old fashion, but I’ve been reading Dickens non-stop for the past two months so maybe that has colored by opinion 🙂
Speaking of Dickens I have to admit that The Old Curiosity Shop on PBS disappointed me the other day.
It was well acted and beautifully shot, and I know Dickens writes some depressing stuff, but I was still unprepared for a story in which the absentee father and the gambling grandfather end up having a happy ending reunion at the price of the innocent girl’s death. Ugh!
More spoilers everyone.
I haven’t read Old Curiosity Shop, but I know the ending. I read that people in NYC would rush to the docks and ask sailors if they knew the end of the story. The book had a lot of hype during its day.
Some of his works are really depressing. I just finished one last night, and I was in tears about one of the characters. He knows how to tug at the heartstrings and how to highlight human depravity. And I hear that his works get darker and darker. I’m reading them in order for the most part so I’ll be able to see if that is true.
It was so interesting how Seldon and his plan sort of took a back seat in my mind. I kind of thought that each book would have a few Seldon Crises, and see his recordings and everything.
I also felt that each book got better and better. I’m planning to read more Foundation books, even though they’re probably not as good. We’ll see.
I might visit more of the Foundation at some point in the future. It would be hard to top these 3 though. I loved all of the excitement and backstabbing and twists. Great fun.
I’m glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one that forgot about the Plan. Sometimes I feel like I am being too lazy in my reading and I’m not connecting all of the dots.
Awesome that you enjoyed the series! Thanks for the info.
Hi everyone. I wanted to let you know I’m not ignoring your comments or posts. This weekend is crazy and I would like to wait until I have more time to read all of them. I’m sorry for the delay. I’ll visit all of your blogs as soon as I can. Have a wonderful weekend 🙂
I have to say Foundation and Empire was my favorite. But I agree with you that Asimov did keep up his game. I was not disappointed and was on the edge of my seat with each revelation. Each book just kept building and building towards a great ending.
Hi Sarah…his writing impressed me. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when we started the series, but I ended up enjoying the series more than I thought I would. Now I consider myself a fan of his writing and I would like to explore more of it.
Foundation and Empire was my favorite of the three the first time I read the trilogy, so I can certainly relate to why it was yours. This time I found them pretty equally enjoyable but felt more connected with Second Foundation in large part because of the great discussion we all had as the story was ongoing.
After reading people’s comments about which one they liked the most I can no longer decide. I loved each one. At first I thought it was Second Foundation, but now I am going to cop out and say that the series was one of the best I’ve read. Each book was a great compliment to the series.