The Foundation Trilogy
Foundation And Empire
Foundation and Empire
Author: Isaac Asimov
Publication Date: 1952
Genre: Science Fiction
The second book in the Hugo Award winning Foundation Trilogy, Foundation and Empire tells fewer and longer stories than the first. This two-story book tells the tale of the final assertion of power of the dying Galactic Empire and the formation of an unexpected power bloc, both of which threaten the Foundation's very existence.
The second of the two stories, The Mule, was said to be Asimov's favorite of the Foundation stories. That may have been before he wrote the two prequels shortly before his death, but I'd say I concur with the author. The Mule is the one story that really sticks in my brain and makes me go back and re-read these books every few years.
Part I: The General
Originally published as "Dead Hand" in Astounding Science Fiction, April 1945
The General is Bel Riose. He's a bright star in the Imperial Navy who has heard tales of magicians on the periphery of the galaxy. Needless to say, those magicians are the Foundation. In the name of glory and Empire, he seeks to subjugate the Foundation worlds and bring them under the heel of the collapsing Galactic Empire. Can the dead hand of Hari Seldon save the Foundation from the might of the Empire?
Sadly, I feel that this is one of the worst stories in the Foundation universe (save the last book, Foundation and Earth, which is eye-bleedingly bad and incredibly hard to find these days since the Asimov estate apparently agrees with my assessment). Worst is, of course, by way of comparison. This is still Asimov we're talking about. However, all of the characters are laughably shallow, many of the plot events are predictable, and there's really not much else. It's still a must-read to further the story, and fortunately you're rewarded after completing it with the story which follows.
Originally published as a two part novella, "The Mule" in Astounding Science-Fiction, November and December 1945
Enter The Mule, an unknown warlord who appears suddenly and has the uncanny ability to conquer any world he decides to. When he sets his sights on the stagnant Foundation which is nearly in a state of civil war, it's hard to imagine anything that could stop him and his fleet.
One has to wonder if Isaac's wife or some other woman in his life pointed out his complete lack of female characters in his stories right before he wrote this. This story, and the last in the trilogy, both suddenly have strong female protagonists, and all of rest of the books in the series (written after the trilogy) have strong female characters as well.
The female character is question is Bayta Darrell, a headstrong, brilliant young woman who befriends a clown while honeymooning with her new husband. The poor clown, as it happens, belongs to The Mule. Hilarity ensues.
To conclude, this story is full of surprises, so I can't tell much more about it without ruining the story. And when I say surprises, I mean that there are plenty eye-bugging heart-stopping surprises which fill this story. By the time you finish the previous story, you'll likely be thinking you can second-guess everything else in the series. Well, you're wrong. Read this. I'm not joking. Why are you still here? Go read this story.
Foundation and Empire
http://www.asimovonline.com for publication dates