The Barnes & Noble Review
A Second Foundation Is Set
Isaac Asimov's original Foundation trilogy is rightfully hailed as one of the classic cornerstone series of SF; in 1965 it even won the author a prestigious Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series." Taking up where the late great master left off, a second Foundation trilogy has been completed by bestselling modern authors Gregory Benford Foundation's Fear , Greg Bear Foundation and Chaos , and now David Brin, who delivers the concluding chapter, Foundation's Triumph .
For those unfamiliar with the series, here's a little background: Humanity constitutes a vast galactic empire so widespread and chaotic that it is doomed to crumble and leave the governments and cultures of 25 million worlds in utter ruin, paving the way for a dark age of barbarism that will last centuries. Hari Seldon, a brilliant mathematician, is the only man capable and willing to do what must be done in order to avert such a disaster. He is the "father" of psychohistory, a science/philosophy capable of scientifically predicting the far future. Hari creates the Encyclopedia Galactica, a storehouse of data that will contain the vast knowledge of all of humanity. A race of immortal robots is also doing all it can to aid the long-term interests of the human race, sometimes working with Hari but more often than not simply using him for itsr own ends. Hari's "Foundation" for a better tomorrow will be carried on by future generations, including his own granddaughter, Wanda, and others known as "The Fifty."
In Foundation's Triumph we discoverthatHari Seldon, now quite elderly, is prepared to die: His Foundation is doomed to fail, but he's already provided for that fact. The Fifty will ensure that a superior second Foundation will prevail. Still, Hari is haunted by the concept of chaos planets worlds that originally draw the brightest and most artistic people to them for a renaissance of art and science, but which eventually lead to debauchery and apathy. These worlds might disrupt his plans, and despite his long-range designs, he has many doubts. When a young mathematician named Horis Antic developes a new theory that deals with cosmic currents and how they affect the soil of worlds and the evolution of planetary life, Hari is off on one last wild adventure.
Also involved here is Dors Venabili, Hari's robot wife, who was forced to leave her husband for the greater good of humanity, as dictated by the 20,000-year-old robot, Daneel Olivaw. Daneel has been planning in secret to create Galaxia, an expansive universal intelligence that will watch over humankind. However, also at work behind the scenes is Lodovic Trema, the robot who is no longer a robot, a rebel free from robotic laws and in essence "human," who feels that humanity would be better off without Daneel overseeing its interests.
Brin has created the most human volume of either Foundation series, with a huge cast of characters who emote, react, fear, loathe, waver, and desire throughout. Brin was in the unenviable position of tying up an enormous and complex narrative saga spanning 20 centuries into the future and another 20 into the past. The author should be commended for realizing that the only way to draw all the elements together is by focusing on the emotional underpinning of the main characters as the Foundation looms closer. Brin skillfully and cleverly weaves the complexities of plot of an entire, lengthy historical chronicle into a relatively short novel that brims with imaginative energy and impassioned resolve. Foundation's Triumph is an ambitious, fascinating conclusion that will astound and satisfy fans of the original novels.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With the permission of the estate of Isaac Asimov, Gregory Benford (Foundations Fear), Greg Bear (Foundation and Chaos) and Brin, collectively billed as the Killer Bs, took on the Second Foundation Trilogy. Unhappily, Brins preachy, gelatinous conclusion deserves another Bfor Boring. Having followed the adventures of the galactic Foundation founder, Hari Seldon, in previous volumes, Asimov aficionados here find Seldon retired, aged, infirm and on the brink of death. Then a chance encounter with a low-level bureaucrat stimulates Seldon into creaky action against chaos, a mental disease afflicting all humanity. Seldon travels fitfully through an upside-down universe 20,000 years into mankinds future, when humans have become impotent, amnesiac creator-gods. Their creations, Asimovs positronic robots led by the enigmatic R. Daneel Olivaw, really control the universe. Brin (The Postman, etc.) resurrects many characters from the five previous Foundation volumes, but their lack of vitality makes these featureless humans as bland as robots. And he divulges these characters secrets in laborious sociological theorizing little better than a thin stream of platitudes. After so much recycling of Asimovs original, the wear and tear is showing, badly, but enough loose plot ends dangle to suggest that yet more sequels may be coming, someday. (May)
VOYA - Diane Yates
Hari Seldon, the developer of the master plan that is to save humanity from thirty millennia of Dark Ages, is now old and frail, his work supposedly over. He is persuaded to take one last journey into space to search for that elusive answer to a problem that has haunted him all his life. The journey is interrupted time and time again by different factions of humans and robots, each of whom kidnap Hari and his companions until being outmaneuvered or killed by the next faction. All of them want Hari to help them or vindicate their position. All think they have the answer to preserving humanity forever, but they differ on how to do it. In the end, it is the robot charged with protecting humanity, Daneel Olivaw, who will shape the future as he sees fit. Three hard SF luminaries, Gregory Benford (Foundation's Fear [Harper, 1998]), Greg Bear (Foundation and Chaos [HarperPrism, 1998]), and David Brin have undertaken to complete Isaac Asimov's epic Foundation series. They all chose to focus on the mature Hari Seldon. All are novels of ideas, not action. They are not driven by plot or characterization, but by cosmic questions. There is no need to push this book to the Foundation's many older teen fans; that series is perennially popular. At the same time, no one unfamiliar with the earlier books will plow through this philosophical treatise, which is long on words and short on action. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult).
Near the end of his life's work, an aging Hari Seldon embarks on one final adventure that may reveal to him the ultimate secrets necessary to the unfolding of his grand plan for the future. Veteran sf author Brin (The Postman, 1985) combines a sense of completion with one of several possible new beginnings in his conclusion of a new trilogy set in the world made popular by the late Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" and "Robot" novels. Along with the other two volumes in the trilogy--Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fear (LJ 3/15/97) and Greg Bear's Foundation and Chaos (HarperCollins, 1998)--this title deserves a wide readership and belongs in most sf collections. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Steven H. Silver
David Brin has provided a worthy successor to Asimov's works in the form of Foundation's Triumph. What Brin seems to have done, is gone back and re-read the 14 novels and myriad short stories Asimov wrote, along with the related novels written by Roger MacBride Allen, Gregory Benford and Greg Bear...With master-craftsman skill, Brin has managed to write a relatively short novel which addresses all of these issues and provides reasonable explanations for nearly all of them... Brin has incorporated enough aspects of Asimov's earlier works that fans might even want to have copies of Asimov's books on hand so they can flip through to find the references...Brin has proven that there are authors who can handle Asimov's material with his voice and add to his legacy.
Extending the late Isaac Asimov's original Foundation Trilogy, this Second has each entry tackled by a different author (previously Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fear, 1997, and Greg Bear's Foundation and Chaos, not seen). Brin's wrap-up volume comes from the author of Heaven's Reach (1998), etc. Hari Seldon, the father of psychohistory, is old and ready to die. The main narrative strand, among others too numerous to mentionBrin often seems to be pursuing complication as an end in itselfis a plot, inspired by robots following their prime directive, to kidnap Seldon, temporarily rejuvenate him, and send him 500 years into the future in order to safeguard the Seldon Plan, which will revive galactic civilization after the collapse of the present empire. Some of the characters involved with the various plots, schemes, struggles, and conspiracies, are: Lodovic Trema, a robot unconstrained by robotic laws, free to act and react as any human; Seldon's robot wife, Dors Venabili; and Horis Antic, one of planet Trantor's Grey Man bureaucracy, curious about certain odd mathematical correlations. The prime mover in all this is the wise 20,000-year-old robot, Daneel Olivaw, who plans to create Galaxia, a galactic integrated intelligence that will safeguard human survival forever. Among the problems facing Daneel are chaos viruses that drive entire planets to madness, cyborgs, wars among robots, elusive pirate captains, and cunning aristocrats. Nobody's what they seem, and everybody's plotting against everybody else. The jury's still out. Was this enterprise a wonderful idea, brimming with possibilities? Or was it merely a sterile retrospective rewrite? Still, readers of the firsttwo volumes, and fans of Asimov's original yarns come to that, will want to explore.
Read an Excerpt
"As for me ... I am finished."
Those words resonated in his mind. They clung, like the relentless blanket that Hari's nurse kept straightening across his legs, though it was a warm day in the imperial gardens.
I am finished.
The relentless phrase was his constant companion.
In front of Hari Seldon lay the rugged slopes of Shoufeen Woods, a wild portion of the Imperial Palace grounds where plants and small animals from across the galaxy mingled in rank disorder, clumping and spreading unhindered. Tall trees even blocked from view the ever-present skyline of metal towers. The mighty worid-city surrounding this little island forest.Trantor.
Squinting through failing eyes, one could almost pretend to be sitting on a different planet--one that had not been flattened and subdued in service to the Galactic Empire of Humanity.
The forest teased Hari. Its total absence of straight lines seemed perverse, a riot of greenery that defied any effort to decipher or decode. The geometries seemed unpredictable, even chaotic.
Mentally, he reached out to the chaos, so vibrant and undisciplined. He spoke to it as an equal. His great enemy.
All my life I fought against you, using mathematics to overcome nature's vast complexity. With tools of psychohistory, I probed the matrices of human society, wresting order from that murky tangle. And when my victories still felt incomplete, I used politics and guile to combat uncertainty, driving you like an enemy before me.
So why now, at my time of supposed triumph, do I hear you calling out to me? Chaos, my old foe?
Hari's answer came in the samephrase that kept threading his thoughts.Because I am finished.
Finished as a mathematician.
It was more than a year since Stettin Palver or Gaal Dornick or any other member of the Fifty had consulted Hari with a serious permutation or revision to the "Seldon Plan." Their awe and reverence for him was unchanged. But urgent tasks kept them busy. Besides, anyone could tell that his mind no longer had the suppleness to juggle a myriad abstractions at the same time. It took a youngster's mental agility, concentration, and arrogance to challenge the hyperdimensional algorithms of psychohistory. His successors, culled from among the best minds on twenty-five million worlds, had all these traits in superabundance.
But Hari could no longer afford conceit. There remained too little time.Finished as a politician.
How he used to hate that word! Pretending, even to himself, that he wanted only to be a meek academic. Of course, that had just been a marvelous pose. No one could rise to become First Minister of the entire human universe without the talent and audacity of a master manipulator. Oh, he had been a genius in that field, too, wielding power with flair, defeating enemies, altering the lives of trillions-while complaining the whole time that he hated the job.
Some might look back on that youthful record with ironic pride. But not Hari Seldon.Finished as a conspirator.
He had won each battle, prevailed in every contest. A year ago, Hari subtly maneuvered today's imperial rulers into creating ideal circumstances for his secret psychohistorical design to flourish. Soon a hundred thousand exiles would be stranded on a stark planet, faraway Terminus, charged with producing a great Encyclopedia Galactica. But that superficial goal would peel away in half a century, revealing the true aim of that Foundation at the galaxy's rim-to be the embryo of a more vigorous empire as the old one fell. For years that had been the focus of his daily ambitions, and his nightly dreams. Dreams that reached ahead, across a thousand years of social collapse--past an age of suffering and violence--to a new human fruition. A better destiny for humankind.
Only now his role in that great enterprise was ended. Hari had just finished taping messages for the Time Vault on Terminus--a series of subtle bulletins that would occasionally nudge or encourage members of the Foundation as they plunged toward a bright morrow preordained by psychohistory. When the final message was safely stored, Hari felt a shift in the attitudes of those around him. He was still esteemed, even venerated. But he wasn't necessary anymore.
One sure sign had been the departure of his bodyguards--a trio of humaniform robots that Daneel Olivaw had assigned to protect Hari, until the transcriptions were finished. It happened right there, at the recording studio. One robot-artfully disguised as a burly young medical technician--had bowed low to speak in Hari's ear."We must go now. Daneel has urgent assignments for us. But he bade me to give you his promise. Daneel will visit soon. The two of you will meet again, before the end."
Perhaps that wasn't the most tactful way to put it. ButHarialways preferred blunt openness from friends and family.
Unbidden, a clear image from the past swept into mind--of his wife, Dors Venabili, playing with Raych, their son. He sighed. Both Dors and Raych were long gone--along with nearly every link that ever bound him closely to another private soul.
This brought a final codea to the phrase that kept spinning through his mind--Finished as a person.
The doctors despaired over extending his life, even though eighty was rather young to die of decrepit age nowadays.But Hari saw no point in mere existence for its own sake.Especially if he could no longer analyze or affect the universe.
Is that why I drift here, to this grove?He pondered the wild, unpredictable forest--a mere pocket in the Imperial Park, which measured a hundred miles on a side--the only expanse of greenery on Trantor's mental-encased crust.Most expanse of greenery on Trantor's metal-encased crust. Foundation's Triumph. Copyright © by David Brin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.