I love this book, too, just as much as Foundation, the first book in the trilogy. Like its predecessor, Foundation and Empire is a very well-written novel with realistic dialogue and intense descriptions of characters and their reactions to the events surrounding them. Take the following passage, for example. In it, General Bel Riose, the last great military figure of the fading galactic Empire, has just captured Lathan Devers, a trader from the Foundation. Riose is accompanied by Ducem Barr, an old, failed revolutionary, and the general is telling Devers about his plans to attack and defeat the Foundation and its associated worlds.
And Barr spoke for the first time, mildly, "You are so confident then that the Foundation will win?"That passage is from the first part of the book, which relates Bel Riose's efforts to defeat the Foundation and solidify his own influence in what remains of the Empire. The second part of the book takes place one hundred years later and covers the rise of the immensely powerful and freakishly successful conqueror known as The Mule. Though the two stories are essentially independent of each other, both are well told, and together they make a good read.
The trader turned. He flushed faintly and an old scar on one temple showed whitely, "Hm-m-m, the silent partner. How'd you squeeze that out of what I said, doc?"
Riose nodded very slightly at Barr, and the Siwennian continued in a low voice, "Because the notion would bother you if you thought your world might lose this war, and suffer the bitter reapings of defeat, I know. My world once did, and still does."
Lathan Devers fumbled his beard, looked from one of his opponents to the other, then laughed shortly. "Does he always talk like that, boss? Listen," he grew serious, "what's defeat? I've seen wars and I've seen defeats. What if the winner does take over? Who's bothered? Me? Guys like me?" He shook his head in derision.
"Get this," the trader spoke forcefully and earnestly, "there are five or six fat slobs who usually run an average planet. They get the rabbit punch, but I'm not losing peace of mind over them. See. The people? The ordinary run of the guys? Sure, some get killed, and the rest pay extra taxes for a while. But it settles itself out; it runs itself down. And then it's the old situation again with a different five or six."
Ducem Barr's nostrils flared, and the tendons of his old right hand jerked; but he said nothing.
Lathan Devers' eyes were on him. They missed nothing. He said, "Look. I spend my life in space for my five-and-dime gadgets and my beer-and-pretzel kickback from the Combines. There's fat fellows back there," his thumb jerked over his shoulder and back, "that sit home and collect my year's income every minute----out of the skimmings from me and more like me. Suppose you run the Foundation. You'll still need us. You'll need us more than ever the Combines do----because you'd not know your way around, and we could bring in the hard cash. We'd make a better deal with the Empire. Yes, we would; and I'm a man of business. If it adds up to a plus mark, I'm for it."
And he stared at the two with sardonic belligerence.
In my post on Foundation I mentioned that when I get into a novel I like to cast the roles using real actors. I did the same here. For the role of Bel Riose I cast Ewan McGregor, and I pictured him as his Obi Wan Kenobi character in The Attack of the Clones, except with a smarter military uniform and better dialogue. For Lathan Devers, I cast Robert Downey, Jr.
In the second part of the book I had more fun with the roles. Following Alan's suggestion in the comments of the other post I cast ----
IF YOU'VE NEVER READ THIS BOOK AND INTEND TO, DO NOT READ ANYMORE! YOU WILL BE SORELY DISAPPOINTED!
---- Emo Phillips as The Mule. His character worked great in the Magnifico disguise, and it even seemed to fit with The Mule after he revealed his true identity.
For the character of Bayta Darell I pictured Teresa Strasser, for her husband Toran I cast Seth Rogen, and for the mad psychologist Ebling Mis I had in mind a disheveled Brent Spiner (that was easy!). But I had a hard time picturing somebody for the part of Captain Han Pritcher, a Foundation loyalist who is forcibly turned to The Mule's cause but is surprisingly fine with it when he realizes why he has switched sides. At first I thought about Jason Carter, but that didn't feel right. Then I considered Kyle McLachlan, but he didn't fit the dialogue. And then I decided to challenge myself: I settled on Hayden Christensen.
I know. Boring, wooden Hayden Christensen who sucked as Anakin Skywalker is bound to be a failure as the driven and dedicated intelligence agent, Han Pritcher, right? Wrong! It seemed to work. Picturing him a bit older and freed of the crappy dialogue written by George Lucas seemed to work, and he fit fine in the role of Pritcher.
But, I could go on, and it's getting late. I will wrap up by saying I fully intend to read the next book in the series, Second Foundation, soon. I hope I have the spare time to do it.
Review of Foundation here.
Review of Second Foundation here.