Monday, February 20, 2012

Second Foundation Group Read Part 1

No pre-question rambling--I'll just jump into this week's questions from host Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.  And be forewarned--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?

First of all, I was so happy that we were not done with The Mule.  I'm still somewhat in that protective mode where I don't get too attached to characters for fear that Asimov will jump ahead in time with a whole new cast.  My conflicting feelings about The Mule make him absolutely intriguing, and I wanted more.
I still have the same aversion to his mode of power.  I still feel empathy for him and the hardships and insecurities he faces being a mutant. I liked seeing his strength in strategy, and enjoyed being the spectator of another mental chess match. We got a glimpse into his mind--his doubts about his power.  I appreciated his recognition of the weakness in his control of others--that it takes away their initiative and drive and they end up weaker as a result.

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)?

Because their mental powers were similar to The Mule's, I was a little wary that we would have yet another instance of an individual/group attempting to take away free will in order to reach its aims. I was happy to find out that although Channis' mind was altered, it was his own choice to undergo the surgery.  That was significant.  On the other hand, The Mule didn't have a choice when they changed his mind to eliminate his inferiority complex and other psychological baggage.  Yes, this did a lot of good for him and the galaxy. And he is getting a taste of his own medicine. But it still irks me a bit from an ethical standpoint.

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?

From the reader's perspective, the whole aura of the plan seems to have been set aside during this part. Instead it has become a very pragmatic "Well, Seldon knew everything wouldn't go according to plan, so let's just do what we can to fix it." This quote struck me:
So [Seldon] created his Foundations according to the laws of psychohistory, but who knew better than he that even those laws were relative. He never created a finished product. Finished products are for decadent minds. His was an evolving mechanism and the Second Foundation was the instrument of that evolution (p. 65).
I'm guessing a lot of us are more comfortable with this view, as opposed to the almost religious fixation in the past with the Plan going down an unchanging route. The idea of an "evolving mechanism" meshes better with reality. It's much easier to accept.

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?

It's among my favorite so far.  All of the mini twists and turns were intense, and it was great getting a different perspective about Seldon's Plan.  I've been curious about the Second Foundation from the beginning, so learning a little bit about it has been satisfying.  I hope there's more in the final part. 

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?

She's smart and resourceful, and yet Asimov doesn't let us forget that she's still a fourteen-year-old girl.  

More discussion on this first part of Second Foundation can be found here.


  1. It is hard to get attached to characters in this series, that is for sure, since they exist to exhibit the ideas of the story which I believe are more of what Asimov was trying to showcase. So it was nice, as you mentioned, that an intriguing character like the Mule was given more time. It would have been a waste to create such an interesting character and not spend some more time with him.

    There are a lot of ethical gray areas in this story, to be sure. I've found that part of it incredibly fascinating on this read through as it was not something I was focused on the first time I read the trilogy. It is hard to throw yourself entirely on the side of any one group of people. But then I think that makes it easier to root on folks like Bayta and Arkady, characters that you can get behind even if the "side" they are on is built upon very questionable practices.

    The revelation of the purpose of the Second Foundation does make the unfolding of the Plan seem much more plausible, that is for sure. And it makes for a much richer story as you realize that they also go down the path that the Mule takes, at least to some degree, to deal with all the possible routes the Plan could take. The story is a very interesting take on the whole idea of Big Brother watching us.

    I'm so impressed with the way Arkady is written. She is impetuous and full of the bravado of an early adolescent and that is coupled with a high intelligence which makes her a treat to spend time with.

  2. This post makes me want to go back and reread the series (read it a long time ago).


  3. Great point that Channis decided to undergo the surgery on his own. I started to find that my opinion about the Mule really started to change and I didn't like that he controlled minds. Then when I found out the Second Foundation did this as well I hated them instantly. But you raise an interesting point and I'll have to think about that.

  4. Actually the part where Channis underwent the surgery of his own free will and was then put back to his original condition put me in mind of Total Recall - where the lead guy doesn't know which side he's on! I can't wait to find out the end - I'm surprised I've not finished it already!
    Lynn :D

  5. It is such a great series. I had always heard of it, but never had a chance to read it.

  6. The Second Foundation isn't perfect, but I was at least relieved that they acknowledged the fact that Channis chose to do what he did. That the idea of free will is at least on their radar. They do use Pritcher against The Mule and hold him back physically, but not mentally. They're ready to allow Pritcher to use his own emotions to take control if necessary. I thought that all was at least a step in the right direction.

  7. I've never seen Total Recall, but it sounds interesting. I have had zero time to finish and it's killing me! All the reading I've been fitting in is an audio book. I'm crossing my fingers for more time and can't wait to see how it all ends.

  8. This is definitely my favorite part of the story thus far, and I'm glad that we got to keep a few of the same characters. I like being able to get attached to characters, which is hard to do when Asimov jumps around as much as in the first book. I'm loving the complexity of the characters--I find myself both liking and disapproving of the Mule at the same time, and I think that he makes a worthy adversary for the Second Foundationers. I can't jump behind anybody's methods, either theirs or the Mule's, but I think that that's a part of what makes this book so interesting.

  9. There's definitely a lot more meat to the characters as we've gotten deeper into the series, and they give us a lot to think about. I really haven't been able to back up any of the regimes in the whole series. Sometimes I've been thinking a long age of barbarism might have been better, lol!