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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Second Foundation

Second Foundation - Isaac Asimov
“Was his controlled mind so concerned with obedience as to lose initiative? He felt a thickening despondency drive him down into a strange lassitude.”
Poor Captain Han Pritcher. Mind control is a common sci-fi trope but the feelings or thoughts of the person under control are rarely explored. This is what makes Part 1 of Second Foundation so special. As I mentioned in my review of Foundation and Empire The Mule is a terrific villain, clever and ruthless but no exactly evil and a little pitiful. This part of the book is entirely concerned with The Mule’s battle of wits against the eponymous Second Foundation. Where the First Foundation that we have come to know from the previous two books is made up of scientists the eponymous Second Foundation is made up of psychohistorians (or psychologists-cum-mathematicians). Their study and development of psychology over hundreds of years make the best of them the equals of the Mule in term of mental power. The showdown between a Second Foundation leader (“first Speaker”) and the Mule consist of moves and counter-moves almost entirely through dialog. This being Asimov the kickass climax does not actually involve feet coming into contact with posteriors; be that as it may the scene is very tautly written and has stayed with me for decades since I first read it.

Part 2 of Second Foundation is mainly concerned with the First Foundation’s search for the Second with the intent of destroying it. This turn of event surprises me a bit, suddenly the Second Foundation is cast in the role of antagonists (“ubiquitous menace”) in spite of having saved the First’s bacon in the preceding part. This makes the First Foundation seems like terrible ingrates. On the other hand nobody likes to have their minds tampered with so their hostility is somewhat understandable. Mixed into the main story arc of the search for the Second Foundation is a subplot concerning the First Foundation’s war with Kalgan. I personally find this warfare section a little dull compared to the much more interesting major plot; I am not at all surprised that I remember nothing of this aspect of the book from my previous reading.

The world building in this third volume is the best of in the trilogy, I particularly enjoy Asimov’s description of the Second Foundation’s culture. They do not communicate by telepathy but conduct whole conversations in micro-gestures (actually much more interesting this way). The denouement at the end of the book is particularly ingenious. Asimov does seem to enjoy pulling the rug from under the readers’ feet, and his enjoyment is infectious.

So that’s it, the entire legendary trilogy read in just one week due to the total page count being under 700 pages. My main reason for the reread is to go on to [b:Foundation's Edge|76683|Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4)|Isaac Asimov|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1389759320s/76683.jpg|1725527] and subsequent Foundation novels, published around 30 years after the original trilogy which I have never read before. Really looking forward to that!