And, so we’ve finally finished the three Issac Asimov novels as part of a sci-fi readalong being hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. It makes me sort of sad that it’s come to an end. The discussions have been great and I’ve enjoyed reading some sci fi much more than I expected and actually understood what was going on (I was expecting to feel like a raging dunce!) Below are the final questions for discussion but please don’t read these if you haven’t read these novels as they will definitely SPOIL the plot!
1. Now that the trilogy is over, discuss your feelings on Asimov’s portrayal of female characters?
I think that Asimov did a really good job portraying the females in the story and gave both of them key roles in the plot. I suppose reading the book in the year 2012 they did come across as a little old fashioned but I think given when these stories were written he does a good job and I think it was probably quite risky for him to include such strong female roles because it can deter some male readers.
2. After all the back and forth mind control of the first part of Second Foundation, what was your state of mind reading this second section of the book? Were you suspicious of everyone? Did you figure things out? Were you just going along for the ride?
To be honest I wasn’t really trying to second guess the ending although I had started to feel as though the location of Second Foundation would be hidden amongst the systems we already knew – I just didn’t know where! In terms of all the mind control flipping back and forth I was just enjoying it as and when it was revealed.
3. Throughout the three novels we were shown a couple of versions of Trantor. Which is more appealing to you? Which would you rather visit?
I preferred the latter version of Trantor. I didn’t like the earlier version before the collapse – I thought it was all too glossy and fickle. I liked the way towards the end that Trantor had actually turned a corner, soil had been revealed and plants had started to grow once again on the surface.
4. How have your thoughts about Hari Seldon, his plan, and either or both Foundations changed, or not, during the course of these three novels?
I feel like I’ve come a long way! We’ve twisted and turned along the way. Been told one thing, then another, liked one person and then found that we didn’t like them, believed there was one Foundation only to find there was two and believed them to be poles apart when in fact they were cheek by jowl. I must hand it to Asimov he’s a master of strategy. I feel like his nickname should be the Trickster.
5. What, if anything, surprised you in this last half of the book? How do you feel Second Foundation held up compared to the other two books in the trilogy?
The biggest surprise for me in this half of the book was the discovery that Arcadia had been mind controlled from her birth – I hadn’t really understood just how far in advance the second Foundation people had been planning. I think this was probably my favourite installment. Particularly the first half which I though was gripping.
6. Did any themes stand out for you in this series? What are you taking away from the experience of reading the Foundation trilogy?
The particular theme that I think comes across is that no one is perfect. I liked the way that the control changed from control based on religious belief, then commerce then mind control. I also think that Asimov was trying to demonstrate that in spite of who is in charge they all have their own foibles.
I think what I’m taking away from this experience is: engagement with a great group of bloggers who have really active minds and get involved in some fantastic discussions. At the end of the day reading is a bit of a solo pursuit and so getting involved in a readalong at least allows you to explore the story more fully and also awakens ideas that you didn’t know you had. It also sometimes highlights different points of view and I found it really interesting how I may or may not like a character in contrast with some of the others. I also have surprised myself and found that I liked sci fi a whole lot more than I thought. I admit that I need to STOP judging a book by it’s cover – because I would never have picked these up otherwise! and I feel almost pleased with myself that I took part, completed the readalong and didn’t struggle too much to ‘get’ the plot. Although, again, I readily admit that I didn’t second guess anything.
Thanks again Carl for hosting.
Just finished reading Chapters 1-9 of Second Foundation as part of a group readalong I am taking part in hosted by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings.
I don’t read a lot of sci fi but wanted to branch out some more and this series has been really great. This weeks questions and discussion points below: (Beware of spoilers!)
1. How have your perceptions of the Mule and his form of governing grown or changed, or not, after spending more time with him in this novel?
I like the Mule less in this novel than previously (in fact I’ve lost any feelings of sympathy that I once had for him). He seems more sinister somehow or perhaps I just totally misread him previously. When he first appeared under the persona of the Clown I wanted to believe he was okay and he almost seemed a little sad which made me feel more forgiving towards him. Also, although I didn’t agree with his methods he didn’t appear to take casualties if he could avoid doing so. Now, he appears to have wiped out any traces of the clown almost as though when he lost his only friend he lost his last shred of humanity. He’s now wiping out full planets without a second thought and he seems much more vindictive. I’m also not totally sure why he was so hell bent on discovering the Second Foundation and bending that to his will as well. He already had the whole system in his pocket and yet he was ruthlessly determined in spite of the fact that most people didn’t believe that the Second Foundation even existed.
2. Having finally gotten a glimpse into the mysterious Second Foundation, what are your feelings/thoughts about this group and their methods (as revealed thus far)
A bit mixed at the moment to be honest. I found the conflict with the Mule the guy from Second Foundation fascinating. Talk about twists and turns! Again we seem to have a planet whose inhabitants are determined to keep within the confines of the Seldon prediction. It’s strange that there are so many people absolutely set on ensuring this prophecy succeeds. You can’t help wondering what would the difference have been without all the interventions. I’m waiting to see how this new element develops – I couldn’t help thinking however that the tactics used to eliminate the threat posed by the Mule were so similar to the tactics he would have used himself! I don’t totally agree with this mind manipulation ‘thing’, however, I was definitely not rooting for the Mule during the confrontation so was actually relieved to a certain extent (even though I didn’t approve the methods). I’d almost started to believe the Mule was really invincible!
3. Has your understanding of the Seldon Plan changed at all with the revelations about the plan and the Second Foundationers near the end of this first part of our reading? Looking back does it alter any ideas you had about Seldon and his predictions?
I think I’m still just as much in the dark as when I first started to read. I had no inkling of the Second Foundation until the point it was actually revealed (I did wonder how Seldon could have predicted things so accurately given how much things would change and develop in the years since he made his prediction and the fact that he would have no knowledge of the effect that these developments would actually mean) but, still waiting to see how things pan out. I’m loving all the secrecy about the location of Second Foundation – I feel as though it’s going to be something really obvious that I should have spotted – hidden in plain sight maybe! I like the way we’ve moved on through the books – we’ve had power through force, through economics and now it seems through intellect. Very intriguing and thought provoking. (I do feel like a big dunce for being so in the dark with how the plot will develop but on this occasion I’m actually not even attempting to second guess the outcome which is unusual for me.
4. A simple one: How did you feel the first part of Second Foundation held up in comparison to the sections we’ve previously read?
Again, similar to the previous book, I really enjoyed this first half and am really looking forward to reading the concluding chapters. I’m still enjoying the style of writing. It’s sort of minimalistic yet manages to say exactly enough to put you in the picture, keep you entertained and make you keep turning the pages. Quickly.
5. It is perhaps not surprising that Asimov’s second important female character in the trilogy would be a direct descendent of the first. What do you think of young Arcadia “Arkady” Darell?
I like her – she’s got a lot of nous! It will be interesting to see what role she eventually comes to play and I think the link with Bayta is good to read about – and makes you keep her story fresh in your memory.
Thanks for the questions Carl. Look forward to all the discussions.