First published in 1982 almost 30 years after the last volume of the iconic original Foundation Trilogy, namely Second Foundation and [b:The Naked Sun|30016|The Naked Sun (Robot, #2)|Isaac Asimov|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1335782263s/30016.jpg|1583154]. Still, I liked it enough to rekindle my interest in the Foundation series of which I have only read the original trilogy in my teens. For some reason I neglected the series from the 4th volume onwards and to catch up I did not want to simply dive into it as it was decades ago since I read the previous books and I have gotten most of the background details. So I reread the trilogy a couple of months ago and enjoyed it very much in spite of already knowing the major plot twists. The Foundation saga remains quite potent after all these years.Foundation's Edge
is the 4th volume I speak of. It is set 500 years after the establishment of the Foundation. The Seldon Plan
is going swimmingly and the First Foundation is at the peak of its strength having dominated all the neighboring planets through its superior technology and military might. The people of the Foundation believe that the threat from the mind controlling Second Foundation has been eliminated and there is now only one Foundation, theirs. Alas someone always shows up to rock the boat otherwise we would not have much of a story. Enters one Golan Trevize, a Council member and an original thinker; a dangerous combination. It occurs to Trevize that the Seldon Plan has been going too well of late and there is surely something wrong when things are just too right. It is unnatural for things to always go according to plan, some deviations must occur. Trevize believes this is an indication that the Foundation is being surreptitiously controlled by puppet masters from the dreaded Second Foundation who will ensure the Seldon Plan reaches fruition and then step in as lord and masters. Voicing such a controversial idea turns out to be unwise as he is summarily kicked off the planet Terminus (home of the Foundation) with a secret mission to locate the Second Foundation in order for the First to do away with them once and for all. Many surprises ensue.
In spite of not being action packed as such, I find Foundation's Edge
to be a gripping page-turner. The plot tends to move through dialogue rather than narration. Every page seems to be stuffed with dialogue as characters are always discussing or arguing about something. The climax is also played through dialogue. This is a surprisingly effective method of storytelling as the book is never dull. Asimov writes reasonably good dialogue, but his characters do have a tendency to belabor their points at times.
Asimov’s major strengths are his epic ideas, world building and plot; these are the reason he is one of the most popular sci-fi authors of all time (possibly the
most popular). His world building here is better than ever, I particularly love the telepathic society and culture of the Second Foundation on Trantor and the strange people of Gaia. It is also lovely to see the robots and their “Three Laws” worked into the Foundation universe, plus a clever explanation for the absence of aliens in the Foundation universe.
Asimov is often criticized for his utilitarian prose and thin characters (the same criticisms leveled toward most Golden Age authors). While he was no Dickens or Oscar Wilde in term of prose, characterization and dialogue I find these criticisms a little unfair. His prose is not extraordinary, but it is uncluttered and very readable, it is never clumsy or semi-literate; he never insults the readers’ intelligence. His dialogue is often full of amusing witty banter and sardonic remarks. As for his characters, while some of the supporting characters are indeed flat his central characters and protagonists are often memorable. After decades away from his books I still remember very well Hari Seldon, The Mule, Susan Calvin (from [b:I Robot|41804|I, Robot (Robot, #0.1)|Isaac Asimov|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388321463s/41804.jpg|1796026]), Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw (from several robot novels). As for Foundation's Edge
's characters, Golan Trevize, and several lead characters are quite vivid and memorable also. In contrast I can not remember a single character from Arthur C. Clarke’s books (except Hal 9000 and Dave Bowman); no disrespect to Sir Arthur though, he has his own brand of greatness.
The climax of Foundation's Edge
is just wonderful and the epilogue leads nicely to the next book [b:Foundation and Earth|29582|Foundation and Earth (Foundation, #5)|Isaac Asimov|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389759320s/29582.jpg|532290]. Asimov always seems to enjoy telling his Foundation stories tremendously and his enjoyment is infectious. Can’t wait!