Friday, July 08, 2011

What I recently finished reading

I finally got around to reading Second Foundation, which is the third -- and as far as I am concerned, the final -- book in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. He wrote more, and I've read the "next" book in the series, Foundation's Edge, but I found it disappointing. As far as I'm concerned, the series ends here.


The plots of this book depend heavily on surprises, twists, deceptions, and characters who think they have everything figured out only to find out that they are wrong and then that they are right and then that something completely different is happening and they don't know what the hell is going on anymore. In talking about Second Foundation, it's almost impossible not to reveal something important along the way, so if you ever plan to read this book and want to get the full effect intended on a first reading, you should probably skip the rest of this post.

Second Foundation picks up where Foundation and Empire left off. The Mule has defeated the Foundation on Terminus and rules the galaxy, and now he is on a quest to find the hidden Second Foundation, an organization that exists in rumor and is said to control the progression of the Seldon Plan. This plan was put into motion 400 years ealier to guide the galaxy through the predicted 1,000 years of barbarity between the fall of the Empire and the establishment of another empire.

The Mule (with his mutant mental powers and ability to psychically convert his enemies into loyal subjects) did not fit in the Seldon Plan, and his actions have endangered the project. The Mule surmises that the Second Foundation will seek his destruction because of the danger he poses to the Plan, and he goes on a hunt to discover the location of the Second Foundationers and destroy them before they destroy him.

The first part of the book, "Search by the Mule", covers just that, the Mule's search for the Second Foundation. He sends out a two-man team to conduct the search: General Han Pritcher, a former enemy from the Foundation who has been emotionally converted by the Mule, and Bail Channis, an unconverterd, ambitious Foundationer. Ultimately the Mule is not successful. Along the way he runs into acutal Second Foundationers and finds them to be as mentally adept and challenging as he is.

I did more of my mental casting for the characters in this story, and here's what I came up with:
The Mule - As with the previous book, Foundation and Empire, I cast Emo Philips in this role.
Han Pritcher - In the previous book I pictured Hayden Christiansen in this role, but here I cast James Franco, and I mentally aged him.
Bail Channis - For some reason, I couldn't get Tim Kang out of my mind when I read his dialogue, so I went with that.

The second part of the book, "Search by the Foundation", picks up about 50 years after the events in "Search by the Mule". By this time the Mule has died, leaving no heirs and a collection of worlds and systems that rapidly falls apart as powerful generals and local warlords take over their own corners of the galaxy. The Foundation on Terminus rises to prominence again, but this time they are fully aware of the existence of the Second Foundation. The Foundationers know now that they are dupes in the Seldon Plan, doomed to be manipulated by the psychic Second Foundationers into following the Plan, willingly or not. They determine to hunt down the Second Foundation and destroy it. And they do, in a way.

For the part of Arkady Darell, the headstrong and cunning teenage girl who stows away on a voyage to uncover the Second Foundation, I cast Jenette McCurdy. (Yes, I know this person. I do have children that watch iCarly from time to time.)

For Arkady's patriotic, plotting father, Dr. Darell, I cast Brent Spiner, whom I had previously cast as Ebling Mis in Foundation and Empire.

For Pelleas Anthor, the Second Foundation's sacrificial lamb, I cast the little-known (to me) Martin Cummins, whom I first remember from the reimagined "V" television series.

And then, for the part of Homir Munn, the duped and tricked nervous historian who knows all things about the Mule, stutters, and is described by his own author as "lanky and terribly ill-at-ease", I cast another Star Trek alum (and a member of the original A-Team), Dwight Schultz.

In all, Second Foundation is another good read. I enjoyed the entire Foundation trilogy again, but, as mentioned, I won't be moving on to Foundation's Edge. It lacks the tight writing and the adventurous undertones of the first three books, and I don't care to give it another chance.

Review of Foundation here.
Review of Foundation and Empire here.


AlanDP said...

Dwight Schultz and Brent Spiner together! How great that would be.

Anonymous said...

How about Saoirse Ronan as Arkady Darrell?

Albatross said...

I'm not familiar with Ronan, but she might fit the part.

Anonymous said...

Jennette McCurdy does look like she'll make a good Arkady Darell! The version I read as a teenager had Michael Whelan's cover; that's been stuck in my head ever since.