Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Meeting their match
I'm not going to write a lot now about Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Empire, as I plan to produce a more comprehensive piece about all the Foundation novels by the end of the year, as I was actually successful in reading all seven of them in 2015 (doing a few of them on audio helped me accomplish this). But I've also been checking in with individual reviews of each book as I've finished them, so I'll quickly do that about Foundation and Empire, too.
The center book of the original trilogy, and still the center book with the two prequels and two sequels to the trilogy that were added later, the dark and complex Foundation and Empire is kind of like the Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back of the series, especially when this was just a three-book series. After the clever successes of Foundation, the scientists, traders, and bureaucrats of the planet Terminus- home of the secret guiding force of the galaxy known as the Foundation- finally meet their match in the person mysteriously known only as the Mule, a super-powered mutant able to control people's minds. Think the Killgrave character from the terrific new Netflix series Jessica Jones, but on a galactic scale.
Unlike all the other crises that the Foundation has faced during its mission to guide the galaxy through an unavoidable barbarous period and more quickly toward a new period of civilization, the Foundation's revered science of psychohistory, with its uncanny ability to predict the problems the Foundation will face during its long mission, completely misses the coming of the Mule, who causes planet after planet to fall under his sway. And, as well as featuring dark themes and plot developments, this book is also like The Empire Strikes Back in that there are multiple cliffhangers in place at story's close, as the challenge of the Mule becomes increasingly insurmountable.
It was fun to see the word mutant thrown around in the book long before the term became popular in the X-Men comics and movies and- somewhat guiltily- I also enjoyed seeing the sometimes arrogant Foundationer characters finally have to truly worry about something, even though they're obstensibly the good guys of the series.
As said, I'll write more about this entry when I discuss the series as a whole, but for now I just wanted to report that Foundation and Empire was a highlight of my 2015 project to tackle all the Foundation novels.