As in Foundation,
this is actually not a single story. Here are presented two separate
episodes in the development of the Foundation toward the establishment of
the Second Galactic Empire.
The first details the encounter between the growing Foundation and the
still-very-powerful Empire. At the forefront is an Imperial General of
outstanding ability and charisma. Unfortunately, Hari Seldon, the
architect of the Foundation, predicted all this with his psychohistorical
calculations. While the general is very successful in his opposition to
the Foundation, his very nature ensures his downfall.
The second story is quite ingenious, in that the single large failing of
Seldon's psychohistory is brought to light. An individual beyond the
predictive nature of psychohistory has appeared and done the impossible.
While there is a type of mystery presented, Asimov either wanted the
reader to know the answer before the characters, or he didn't try very
hard to obscure the nature of things. But this is a crucial moment in the
Foundation's development, as they seem to be vulnerable after all. This
story depends heavily on a plot element present in all the Robot-Empire-
and now Foundation Series: psionic abilities. Clearly this was a favorite
concept for Asimov, and he never seems to abuse it; that is, it never
seems there for its own sake but always represents a fundamental encounter
when it appears, and you can bet there are severe ramifications.
While I have noted a few complaints about the second of these two stories,
this book is still very well written, with action and suspense as good as
any I've read. Asimov did such a wonderful job crafting this future
history that I can only applaud having had the pleasure to read it. If you
like S-F, you will love this whole series, chosen as the Best Series Ever
Hugo winner. Need I say more?
-G. Swift "97jedi"
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