Foundation and Empire

Author: Isaac Asimov
Published: 1952
Website: Wikipedia Page

Foundation and Empire is the second in the classic Foundation series. Because of the structure of the first Foundation book (a series of short stories that were in fact originally published separately) the second book, made up of two stories taking place about a century apart, feels very much like a continuation of the first. The first story, which tells the story of Empire general Bel Riose and his attack on Foundation, follows in the style of clever people with odd names facing off against each other with only the knowledge of their relative strengths and faith or lack of faith in Hari Seldon’s psychohistorical analysis. Like the stories in Foundation, this was fun and lighthearted, whereas the second story, Mule, was more intricate and a little darker. It involved an unforeseen enemy and hidden identity, and that approach made it more of a novella and less of a science fiction short story. I’m not sure why the change occurred, though it’s possible that Asimov’s style changed as he got older (he began Foundation at the age of 21). I’m interested to see where Second Foundation goes in terms of stylistic identity.

It’s always striking how difficult Asimov’s plots are to follow, even as they remain eminently readable. It seems that Asimov has such a clear, simple and engaging overarching idea (the fall of a decrepit bureaucracy, replacement by a more rational and scientific future regime) and an interesting universe that the unpronounceable names and the winding plot can be forgiven. There are many ways to write science fiction, and it appears that a world-centric focus is a successful one.

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