Just finished this one today; I keep writing these reviews in retrospect, but this one’s fresh in my mind. I think the plot twists in this one caught me off guard. I didn’t expect the Second Foundation’s acts throughout the novel, and the reveals definitely made me literally gasp. However, after a certain point, I think that the random plot twists were a little too much. Case in point: the end of the novel, where the location of the secret Second Foundation is dramatically revealed…three times, each with a suitable justification and portrayed as a plot twist. Oh, and let’s not forget the two reveals of people who turned out to be more than they seemed, all crammed into the last chapter. The last chapter, in particular, is reminiscent of a villain monologuing his whole plan to a henchmen.
I think a lot of it is weak writing to be sure, but I think the concept is great, just as it was in the first book. After reading this, it seems to me that Asimov wasn’t interested in “hard” science fiction, which deals with the future of technology and deep descriptions of how they may work. Instead, he deals in more broad strokes. I guess the only “science-fiction-y” thing about his stories is that they take place in the future, and have a more-than-normal emphasis on the technology in that world.
Here are a few more gripes I had about this particular novel. I was shocked at how silly the end of the first story is, wherein the Second Foundation basically changes the emotions of the Mule forever. They drive him to a point of despair and then permanently affect him. This kind of power is something that’s been with only the Mule throughout the entire book, and seeing it with someone else is definitely shocking. However, the reasoning with which they affect the Mule isn’t too believable, and the “reveal” wasn’t to great. I feel like it just…ends, abruptly. Also, why did the Mule travel halfway across the galaxy just to see the Second Foundation alone? Seems rather silly.
On top of this, there doesn’t seem to be much point as to why the main characters in part 2 have a hatred for the fantastical Second Foundation. My interpretation so far is that they believe the changes in brain patterns in Changed people are a lack of individualism, which is something that I think is pretty strongly stressed throughout the series. I guess that’s a valid point, but I wish there were some more philosophical digressions throughout the series. Either way, I think I enjoyed Foundation. It isn’t really the type of sci-fi that I like, but it’s unique, interesting, and has some good twists. I wish we got to see the Second Empire in its full glory, though.