Foundation’s Edge

“The advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.”

Isaac Asimov

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SECOND FOUNDATION.

Me: “Is this book yours?”

The Pragmatist: “No, it’s the Resident Grammarian’s.”

Me: “Is it yours?”

The Resident Grammarian: “No, it’s the Pragmatist’s.”

And it certainly doesn’t belong to Teenaged Sister, so Foundation’s Edge would appear to be one of those SGPs (Spontaneously Generated Paperbacks) that occasionally turn up in boxes or on windowsills, to the puzzlement of all concerned. Anyway, I’m still on a mission to read ALL THE ASIMOVS because ROBOTS IN SPACE, so I’m not complaining.

In Foundation’s Edge, sequel to the original Foundation trilogy and published thirty years after Second Foundation, its immediate predecessor, Councilman of Terminus Golan Trevize starts entertaining some very vocal suspicions about the continued existence of the Second Foundation, supposed to be destroyed at the end of the third book. Partly to test this theory and partly to keep those doubts from the population of Terminus, Mayor Harla Branno sends Trevize off into the depths of space with academic Janov Pelorat, ostensibly to look for the fabled planet Earth, and covertly to search for any signs of a newly risen Second Foundation. What they actually find, however, is totally unexpected and utterly unprecedented.

So Foundation’s Edge is a very different beast to its predecessors. For one thing, it’s almost twice as long, yet follows a single plotline, instead of two or more episodes designed to illustrate one political movement. This, I feel, gives the story an opportunity to stretch, as it were, to develop and build to a denouement that is almost fairy-tale-like in its import and its gathering of the main strands of the narrative together. We also get some backstory for Asimov’s universe, things like what kind of life there is on non-Earth planets and how hyperspace works (not that this makes any sense). Oh, and this is where the robots in space come in. And, actually, quite a few of Asimov’s other books, a list of which appears in a helpful Afterword which is, I am convinced, a cynical marketing ploy designed to convince the reader to go away and buy ALL THE ASIMOVS…oh.

It works, then.

Well, if it is a cynical marketing ploy, it’s still pretty awesome. I also liked the fact that we get more detailed description of other places – a little more of Trantor (though not nearly enough), the planet Sayshell with its odd customs, the wonderful, strange Gaia, even the thought-powered spaceship thing. There was plenty to like about Foundation’s Edge.

There were, however, a couple of things that kind of spoiled it for me, viz., the fact that twenty-two centuries, hyperspatial travel and Galaxy-wide expansion has not apparently been enough to rid humanity of rampant sexism. There are four female characters in Foundation’s Edge: two (Harla Branno and Delarmi) are ambitious, manipulative political schemers who are EVIL and two (Bliss and Sura Novi) are basically pets. And, while there is a twist that perhaps changes Novi’s status, and certainly Bliss’, it doesn’t change the other characters’ attitudes to them, which are never really questioned and which made me quite…uneasy about the whole thing. That, and the fact that the male characters apparently all think and talk in exactly the same way, makes Foundation’s Edge…well, not one of the best books ever, let’s put it that way.

Oh, and apparently spaceships run off “the fundamental energy store of the Universe” now. C’mon, Asimov, you’re a scientist. Even Hollywood can do better than that.

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