Foundation’s Edge &
Foundation and Earth
by Isaac Asimov
Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, published in novel form in 1951-53 was first conceived as a series of short stories in the 1940s. [See https://bookheathen.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/history-of-the-future/] Complete in themselves and as a unit, the three novels did not need a follow-up. Asimov turned his attention to other matters. Apart from a few unrelated sci-fi works and some short stories, his entire output for about thirty years was devoted to non-fiction books. Most – though not all – dealt with scientific subjects.
‘Slowly the Galaxy was turning so that it could be seen at right angles to the Galactic plane … a gigantic, glowing whirlpool, with curves of darkness, and knots of brightness, and a central all-but-featurless blaze.’
Suddenly, and maybe unexpectedly, in 1982, he returned to his Foundation stories. As he wrote himself ‘… fans kept asking me to continue … I kept refusing.’ The real pressure seems to have come from his publishers with a contract Asimov just couldn’t refuse. So he wrote Foundation’s Edge and, in 1986, followed that with Foundation and Earth. I was already a fan of his books so I went out and bought both.
Both novels are complete in themselves though, in Galactic years, the second follows immediately from the first. The chief protagonist is Golan Trevize, an outspoken councilman of the Foundation Federation, five hundred years after its founding on the planet Terminus. Believing the mysterious Second Foundation of psychohistorians still exists, he confides in a friend who promptly betrays him to the Mayor of Terminus, Harla Branno. Branno exiles him, gives him a state-of-the-art spaceship and tells him he can return only if he can locate this world of mind-adjusting psychologists. Accompanying Trevize is historian/mythologist Janov Pelorat, whose objective is to discover the planet of origin (Earth).
‘Trevize sat silently … he could hear Mayor Branno’s voice say firmly , “Free will!” Speaker Gendibal’s voice … “Guidance and peace! … “Novi’s voice … “Life!” ‘
Meantime, on the planet Trantor, Stor Gendibal, a Speaker of the Second Foundation, has his own problems. Gendibal too is a rebel in his society, and he too is sent – accompanied by the woman Sura Novi – on a quest to find and destroy the unknown entity that is apparently derailing the Seldon Plan.
Driven by their double mission, Trevize and Pelorat follow the trail to the planet Gaia, while Gendibal and Nova for different motives pursue a similar course. Foundation’s Edge ends with a rendezvous in space, a confrontation of several powerful forces at which Trevize must make a decision as to which Foundation, if any, should best rule the Galaxy.
‘It held out its hand and from Trevize’s right holster there emerged his blaster, while from his left holster there rose up his neuronic whip. Trevize snatched at his weapons but felt his arms held back as though by stiffly elastic bonds.’
Foundation and Earth narrates the further adventures of Trevize, Pelorat and the Gaian girl Bliss as they resume the search for Earth. Does it exist, or is it myth as many believe? And why have all records relating to it been removed from the planetary libraries? The renewed quest leads the three travelers into dangers they cannot possibly foresee, and against new adversaries, human and otherwise. Irresistibly drawn towards the original home of humanity, Trevize finally understands why he made the decision he did. But was it really his decision to make, or is the Galaxy already controlled by a more powerful force than either Foundation, or even than the mind of the benevolent Gaia?
‘Fallom closed her eyes. The note was softer now and under firmer control. The flute played by itself, manoevred by no fingers but moved by distant energy, transduced through the still immature lobes of Fallom’s brain.’
Foundation’s Edge is every bit as good as the original trilogy, and I enjoyed it as much as I did when I read it many years ago. Foundation and Earth – for someone who has followed the stories thus far – suffers in parts from too much unnecessary repetition. However, it is still a worthy conclusion to the epic, full a twists and driven forward by Asimov’s masterly dialogue.