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Excellent Novel but Disappointing End to the Foundation Series

  • Mar 7, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+4
[Note this review contains spoilers, especially for previous books in the series.]

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is an excellent work and very entertaining. It is well written in the vein of the Foundation Series. But ultimately, FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is profoundly disappointing.

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is a biography of Hari Seldon, filling in the areas of his life not previously covered in PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION. FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is written as a series of novellas covering major portions and events in Seldon's life as he continues his solidification of psychohistory and prepares for the establishment of the Foundation and the Second Galactic Empire. Hari Seldon is a fascinating character and many of his life experiences chronicled in FORWARD THE FOUNDATION were unexpected. FORWARD THE FOUNDATION probably could be enjoyed as a stand alone novel but it is not recommended. Without the background of the previous Foundation novels many of the events and explications of psychohistory would be much less significant to the reader.

Two key questions remained after the last novel, FOUNDATION AND EARTH. First, how and why was the Second Foundation originally established? Second, was the Seldon Plan truly a failure and would Galaxia really be the future of humankind?

FORWARD THE FOUNDATION clearly answers the first question. The First and Second Foundations were established to be complimentary to each other. The First Foundation is to be the backbone of the technological and political regeneration of humanity in the form of the Second Galactic Empire while the Second Foundation plays the role of advancing psychohistory and ensuring the survival of the First Foundation. While this is relatively clear in the previous Foundation novels, the Second Foundation seems vulnerable and venal in FOUNDATION'S EDGE and FOUNDATION AND EARTH. Both Foundations are more concerned with their own self-interest as opposed to the interest of the Second Galactic Empire or the Seldon Plan. In FORWARD THE FOUNDATION we clearly see that they are meant to work together to complete the Seldon Plan.

Ultimately FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is extremely disappointing as a denouement to the Foundation Series. The major question left from FOUNDATION AND EARTH, the latest chronologically of the Foundation Series, is the fate of humanity. It seems pretty clear at the end of FOUNDATION AND EARTH that Gaia or Galaxia, the all encompassing organic planet where every element is interconnected physically, will be the eventual fate of all humankind after Trevize discovers what he considers to be the fatal flaw of psychohistory and decides in its favor (for more detail see FOUNDATION'S EDGE and FOUNDATION AND EARTH). Trevize claims that psychohistory does not take into account the possibility of intelligent life in other galaxies. If such life exists then psychohistory is irreparably flawed (I think this is a terribly poor argument and lament that FOUNDATION AND EARTH was ever written). Therefore Trevize feels he must side with Gaia so that humankind can be united if it ever faces a threat from intelligent life outside the galaxy. Gaia is a very unpleasant and damning ending for humanity. Humankind as one large interconnected organism is defeatist.

Unfortunately, FORWARD THE FOUNDATION does not explicitly state that the Foundation ultimately establishes a Second Galactic Empire and that Galaxia is aborted. FORWARD THE FOUNDATION, however, does strongly imply that Galaxia is not the ultimate fate of humanity and that the Seldon Plan works out. First, if the Foundation does not succeed why should readers, who have already seen the future, give a damn about the life a Hari Seldon? If Galaxia is the fate of humankind then Seldon would have played no role in the shape of humankind's future and would be unimportant in the long run. Surely Asimov would not have spent such effort writing about Seldon's life if Galaxia were to make Seldon's life ultimately purposeless. Additionally there is the continuing entries of the Encyclopedia Galactica which states at the end of FORWARD THE FOUNDATION  [SPOILER]: "It has been said that Hari Seldon left this life as he lived it, for he died with the future he created unfolding all around him..."

This passage could be interpreted that the Seldon Plan eventually molds the future of humankind.

Whether my assumption that the Foundation ultimately establishes a Second Galactic Empire is correct or not, FORWARD THE FOUNDATION does not bring closure to the Foundation Series. If the Seldon Plan is successful, then we must wonder how the Foundations are able to thwart the establishment of Galaxia after the seemingly firm impetus it had at the end of FOUNDATION AND EARTH. If Galaxia is indeed eventually established, certainly the two Foundations did not acquiesce without a fight. And both Foundations had the resources and ability to fight for their own survival and the Seldon Plan. This conflict would have been interesting and would have made a great premise for a final Foundation novel.

The original Foundation Trilogy is a true masterpiece. The intervening Foundation novels are of mixed quality and end with a very unsatisfactory solution in FOUNDATION AND EARTH. The key reason behind establishing Galaxia is to meet any threat that may be imposed by intelligent life from other galaxies. Humankind must be united to face such a challenge. Trevize argues that the Seldon Plan is flawed by not taking into account the possibility of intelligent life in other galaxies. What Trevize (and Asimov when he wrote FOUNDATION AND EARTH?) do not realize is that as long as humans are isolated and do not come into contact with other intelligent life then the Seldon Plan will continue to operate. If the Second Galactic Empire is eventually established before any competition or invasion by other intelligent life occurs then a united human community could meet such a threat. Presumably the Second Foundation would continue to improve upon psychohistory, allowing them to take into account contact with intelligent beings from other galaxies if and when such contact is made.

In sum I must say I am disappointed in the ending of the Foundation Series. For the most part FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is well worth reading in the context of the preceding novels. Unfortunately, we are left to speculate about the impending conflict between Galaxia and the two Foundations. I would have rather speculated about the interlude in Seldon's life filled by FORWARD THE FOUNDATION.

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More Forward the Foundation reviews
review by . August 04, 2008
Last-written in the Foundation series, this book slots in chronologically close to the beginning, explaining some lose ends and providing more detail about Hari Seldon. Still not that good, but at least well-enough written to be readable without cringing.
review by . August 20, 2004
Book Review by C. Douglas Baker    FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is an excellent work and very entertaining. It is well written in the vein of the Foundation Series. But ultimately, FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is profoundly disappointing.     FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is a biography of Hari Seldon, filling in the areas of his life not previously covered in PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION. FORWARD THE FOUNDATION is written as a series of novellas covering major portions and events …
review by . February 05, 2003
When I read the original three foundation tales, quite frankly, I was not overwhelmed with the quality of the stories. However, there was one point of the tales that had me fascinated. That was of course the psychohistory of Hari Seldon. This book is a prequel to the first of the three originals, although there is some overlap. It is a description of the life of Hari as he begins the detailed development of psychohistory.    As he had promised years before, Asimov uses this book to tie …
About this book

Wiki

The late Grand Master of science fiction brings his most famous work, the epic Foundation series, to a posthumous close in this volume. Returning to the format of earlier books in the saga, he presents the story in discrete, novella-length segments, finally grappling with the figure at the center of the entire series: the adult Hari Seldon, creator of psychohistory and father of the Foundation itself (the young Seldon was featured in the previous series novel, Prelude to Foundation ). Here, Seldon confronts various threats to the Empire or to the psychohistory project, thwarting them for the most part by his characteristic brand of informed intuition. In part I, Seldon recognizes the rise of a dangerous anti-Imperial movement led by the charismatic Jo-Jo Joranum, and defuses it while simultaneously backing into the post of First Minister. In the second segment (of five), Seldon narrowly avoids an attempt on his life but cannot prevent the assassination of the Emperor Cleon I. Seldon faces personal as well as political setbacks while civilization crumbles. This volume neatly sews up the series, though it offers few real surprises. Most interesting is the glimpse it affords of Asimov himself, obviously personified in Seldon. The psychohistorian's vast intellectual interest, his concern for the future of learning in a time of decline, and his frustration in the face of mortality, ring true with special poignance. Asimov's fans should savor this final taste of his unique ...
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ISBN-10: 0553565079
ISBN-13: 978-0553565072
Author: Isaac Asimov
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Spectra
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