BOOK REVIEW: Foundation’s Edge, by Isaac Asimov

-spoilers for the entire Foundation universe-

edge.jpg

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Genre: Social SF

Series: Foundation (#4)

Pages: 431

Publication Date: 1983

Verdict: 4/5

The Foundation stands triumphant against all enemies, and has reached the halfway mark in the interregnum between the Galactix Empire and its predicted successor. But all may not be as it seems, and one man is determined to uncover the truth . . .

After a break of thirty years, Asimov returns to his most famous setting with a bang. This is the first Foundation novel to be written as such, rather than being a collection of short stories or novellas. As you might expect, this gives it a somewhat tighter focus than previous volumes in the series, and the events here only deal with a single generation. In fact, the cast is considerably smaller than the sprawling population of earlier volumes, though all the characters here get a thourough exploration on the page. However, the books is still split between two main story arcs, and this is its major weakness.

The ‘main’ story, such as I see it, is the stronger of the two. We follow Golan Trevize and Janov Pelorat, a pair of Foundation citizens who search first for the Second Foundation, and then for Earth. A lot of this arc is dedicated to explaining inconsistencies in Asimov’s future timeline, tying together various dangling threads of worldbuilding. We have hints of robotics, pre-Imperial kingdoms and even the Eternals. You might think this would get boring, but nobody could write infodumps like Asimov, and here he is on top of his game. Asimov’s openess about the ad-hoc piecing together of his universe lends an additional insight into the storytelling process, an insight validated by the afterword.

The same cannot be said for the second arc, dealing with the Second Foundation and its ongoing efforts to remain hidden from the Galaxy. These parts are dry even by Asimov’s standards, and the characters fall flat more often than not, their relationships not terribly interesting. Inevitably, these two stories cross over at the climax, but there’s no reason to be all that invested in the superhumans of the Second Foundation.

This is far from my favourite Asimov novel, but it’s also far from a bad story. Though some chapters are a bit of a slog to get through, the reward at the end is worth the effort. By this point, the Galaxy has enough history behind it to give real weight to the revelations contained herein. You’d be surprised just how intersting archeology can be when it’s Asimov at the helm. There are still unanswered questions left at the novel’s end, but there are answers to be had in the next instalment. With only one book remaining in the series, and in this reread, there’s a lot of ground left to cover, but Foundation’s Edge never feels lacking for not addressing every question.

If you’ve come this far, you’ll likely see Foundation through to the end. But if this is your first experience of Asimov, then you won’t be left clueless either.

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