by Isaac Asimov
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted July 29, 2019
This was my first time reading Foundation's Edge, which won Hugo and Locus awards in 1983, and was also a Nebula finalist. It had been ten years since Asimov's previous novel, the multiple award-winner The Gods Themselves. In both cases I think his reputation is what won the awards, since quite a few of the other finalists were superior, although I might change my mind about a few on re-reading. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but it does start slow and it took time establishing its direction. One thing about it is he definitely did not follow the writing rule of "Show, Don't Tell." Asimov excelled at mysteries and logic puzzles, in which almost all the plot is rendered through dialogue. It was "Tell, Tell, Tell" throughout this one. That is not necessarily a negative, nor a criticism, just an observation. The puzzle was intricate and intriguing, and Asimov did better here on characterizations than was typical.
The action begins approximately 500 years after the establishment of Hari Seldon's Foundation on Terminus, about 120 years after the defeat of the Mule. A holographic image of Seldon has appeared before the Foundation Council to inform them of the latest crisis, which he assures them they have weathered successfully. Councilman Golan Trevize is vocal in his objection to one thing everyone else believes, that the Second Foundation was defeated by Arcadia Darell. He believes it still exists, and he wants to search for it and expose it. Mayor Harla Branno may actually believe him, but wants to keep him quiet. She arrests Trevize and exiles him, sending him off with historian Janov Pelorat on a quest for the mythical Earth. Trevize is noted for his intuition, an ability to come to a proper conclusion with the minimum of facts. Pelorat initially wants to go to Trantor, the home planet of the old Galactic Empire. He hopes their library will yield search results for Earth he has been unable to find on Terminus. Instead, Trevize uses an off-hand remark by Pelorat to conclude they really need to go to Saychell, a planetary group independent of the Foundation Federation. There they hear rumors of another mythical planet, Gaia, which they first think might be another name for the fabled Earth. It's not, but it proves to be so much more.
On Trantor, Speaker Stor Gendibal of the Second Foundation, the youngest member of the Table, is intelligent and ambitious, but not as intuitive as Trevize. He mistakenly accuses other Speakers of attempted murder, thinking they solicited an attack on him by one of the local Hamish farmers. The peasants call the planet Hame, their dialect's variation of Home. Gendibal later apologizes when he realizes an outside group is more likely responsible for the crime, and in turn his chief rival apologizes for her attempts to impeach him and remove him from the Table. Gendibal's theory is of another secretive group, not associated with either the First or Second Foundation, one that has the ability to manipulate the minds of others. Since the Mule had that ability, he labels the new suspects the Anti-Mules. It's remarkable how close to correct he was with that assessment. The Table directs him to search for this group, and in so doing he comes into contact with Trevize and Pelorat, who have found Gaia.
I knew Asimov was attempting to consolidate his various fictional sequences with his later writings. Originally, the Robot stories, the Empire novels, and the Foundation Trilogy had no direct connection, but for some reason he (or maybe his agent or editors) felt it was necessary to tie them all together. There had been no mention of robots in the Foundation Trilogy, and it's been way too long for me to recall if they appear in the Empire novels (which I WILL re-read one of these days). There's another writing rule I thought he was going to ignore, that of "Chekov's Gun," which states if you place a gun prominently in one chapter, that gun should be used later, or else why mention it? In this case, while on Saychell, a professor asks Trevize and Pelorat if they were familiar with robots, and they both are sure they've never heard the term. When they were approaching Gaia I was convinced it would turn out to be the last stronghold of robots. Was it? Maybe, maybe not, depending on who you believe. That question might not be answered definitively until a later book. Whether or not I ever get to those later books, some of which are prequels, is another question.
Recommended primarily for the plot, a few of the characters, as well as the dialectics of values between the First and Second Foundations. I was less impressed with what we learn about Gaia, which was quite unlike anything Asimov had done before, it just didn't ring true. As I said above, it starts very slow, and I had set it aside for almost two days before getting back to it. Once Trevize and Pelorat start their quest it picks up considerably, propelled by Trevize's analytical mind and his ability to speculate from the slimmest clues. The reveal of where the clues were coming from was handled subtly and satisfyingly. The only thing I can think to criticize is the misogyny. It's not necessary for the majority of the comments about female characters to be about their appearance, their appeal to the male gaze. Of course we all know now about Asimov's tendency toward that in real life, so it's not surprising. Just disappointing.
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