Foundation and Earth

“All history is legend, more or less.”

Isaac Asimov

SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR FOUNDATION’S EDGE.

Foundation and Earth, the fifth book in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation saga, sees our old friends Golan Trevize, Janov Pelorat and Bliss the Gaian set out on an epic space quest for Earth because Trevize is characteristically unhappy with his decision in favour of Galaxia at the end of Foundation’s Edge and wants to find out why he made it. (This kind of thing happens in Asimov-land all the time. It’s a wonder society functions at all.) Along the way, the gang encounter a planet of hermaphrodites, some infectious space moss and lots of people who apparently want to sleep with Trevize, who seems to have become suddenly extremely attractive in the gap between the end of Foundation’s Edge and the beginning of Foundation and Earth.

It’s all very amusing, and occasionally cringeworthy, mainly because Asimov’s attempts at writing romantic relationships are not things you want to see. It’s like hearing your grandparents discuss them: you know they know about them, but you don’t want them to acknowledge that you know they know. Sometimes I found myself wishing he’d left Bliss and Pelorat back on Gaia and let Trevize get on with killing himself or whatever. It would have made the whole thing a lot less painful.

What else? Oh, yes, the famous “fundamental energy store of the Universe” on which Trevize’s ship the Far Star runs has now become the slightly more creditable “general gravitational field of the Galaxy”; Asimov gets tied up in unnecessary but highly amusing knots over How Gaia Actually Works (please, just leave it alone, Asimov. We really don’t care that much); and whoever edited this has no idea how to use question marks.

But – and this is probably the only redeeming factor in what is essentially a disappointingly un-Asimovian, muddy mess of a space novel – ROBOTS IN SPACE. At last. (And it’s kind of awesome.)

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