Wednesday, January 18, 2012
The Foundation Group Read Part 2 of 2
So the great "Foundation" Group Read, hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, has come to an end. It was fun getting to revisit one of my favorite classics. Carl has decided to keep the Asimov Group Read going by continuing on with "Foundation&Empire" and "Second Foundation".
Hari Seldon was the first character in the book that we got to spend any significant time with. What are your thoughts on the grand finale of his plotting, scheming and maneuvering to get the Foundation through to the next Seldon crisis?
I like the way the Foundation is determining if it is a Seldon Crisis. The solutions are adaptable to the problem they are confronting. Hari has put them into a position where they have to decide what is the right thing to do. So far the Foundation has used religion and trade to maintain their position of power. What will be the next tool they will use? I am not telling.
What are your thoughts on the way in which control/manipulation to achieve Foundation ends began to shift with The Traders? I appreciate what Asimov has done. Just like in the real world, what works for one generation does not necessarily work for the next generation. Sometimes it works, usually it needs modified.
One of the interesting things about Seldon's psychohistory is how much one man can actually affect it. In Foundation we see characters like Hardin and Mallow as key figures for positioning things just right to work towards Seldon's later predictions. Do you see this as a contradiction to what Seldon said about psychohistory at the beginning of our story or part of an overall plan?
It does appear to be a contradiction. Seldon liked to point out how he could only predict and influence large groups. Psychohistory cannot be micromanaged to predict what individuals will do. But, like what happened in the Roman Empire, individuals are somewhat a product of the culture. Asimov was not shy about saying how this work was based on the history of the Roman Empire. When you read about it, the people living at the time (and historians since then) thought it was too big to be manipulated by a single individual. But many times, the individual appeared to be steering the Empire. Was this actually the case? Or was it a situation where the individual was really the product of the culture and just happened to be the person who most reflected what was going on in the Empire at that time. So in effect, the Empire raised the individual to reflect what it wanted. Compare it to one of our previous group reads-Dune by Frank Herbert. Would Paul have been able to go in and take the Freemen down a drastically different path? No. They followed him because he fulfilled their prophecies. Hari Seldon is the Muad’dib of the Foundation series. Where Muad’dib took control by using war and the jihad, Hari uses behind the scenes political/psychological manipulation. War was the language of Dune. Psychohistory is the language of Foundation. Both are the perfect product of the world they end up controlling. Based on this comparison I would have to say that the world of Dune controlled Paul Muad’dib similar to the way that psychohistory controlled Hari Seldon. Both would have failed if they switched places.
Did you see similarities or differences between the way in which Salvador Hardin and Hober Mallow operated and what are your thoughts about this final section of Foundation?
They parallel each other. Both use the methods that they are familiar with to preserve the Foundation.
Would you have been content as a reader back then with how everything played out? Any final thoughts on the story as a whole, its structure, what it did or did not accomplish, how it worked for you, etc?
This is one of my favorite books. It hooked me on Asimov. I would have been very disappointed if I thought this was the end of the story. Fortunately, “Foundation and Empire” and “Second Foundation” were prominently displayed with “Foundation” when I discovered it. I can’t describe the excitement I felt when the Good Doctor announced that “Foundation’s Edge” would be published. But that is a story for another time. Other authors have leaped up my list of personal favorites but Isaac Asimov has stayed in my top 2-3 authors since the first time I read his work. I can’t imagine anything changing that at this point in my life.
Click here for Part 1