FoundationApril 5th, 2009 at 13:38
The narrative epic begins in the first two books with the story of the mathematician Harry Seldon, and his development of “Scientific History”, by which he could somehow predict and put things in motion to ensure the continuation of advanced human civilization in the wake of the decadence and deterioration of the current galactic human empire that Harry and the other characters of the book are living in. The rest of the story plays out in the final five books to show how well (or not) the institutions and artifacts Seldon created preserve human civilization through the next tumultuous five-hundred years of galactic human history.
Along the way we experience the stories of a number of characters, some heroic, others driven by less than heroic motives, and the extent to which all these actors and their actions fall within the Scientific History predictions and correcting mechanisms. We follow the creation and development of “The Foundation”, Seldon’s most prominent legacy, explicitly conceived as a library of human knowledge, but in fact also the intended seed of a new human civilization to later grow amidst the destruction of the old empire.
We also follow the creation and development of the clandestine “Second Foundation”, another key part of Seldon’s plan to ensure the survival and growth of the previously mentioned “First Foundation”. It was critical to its success that the Second Foundation remains unknown to either the Empire or the First Foundation, so it could act in secret to resolve any unpredicted (by Seldon’s previous calculations) events such as the ascension of “The Mule” (a very talented mind reading and controlling mutant) in the fifth book in the series.
Finally the story culminates when the First Foundation discovers the existence of the Second and forces a confrontation, which then brings a third unexpected galactic force into play and a final resolution to the story. And to top things off, a trio of intrepid characters finally discovers the previously mythic “Earth” (the original home world of human beings) and the cybernetic being who over the timeframe of this epic story has also worked clandestinely to ensure human civilization’s success, deriving the “0th Law of Robotics”, from the original three laws built into all cybernetic beings’ programming by their human creators.
My brief attempt to encapsulate some of the key threads of the story is not to fully explain them, but instead to give you a sense of the complexity and sophistication of this story, read aloud chapter by chapter on successive nights to a seven- and ten-year-old, under the covers in their respective beds.
So wouldn’t such a story with all its threads, concepts and scope go over the heads of my two listeners? I’m sure some of it did, but not enough that the two of them were not interested to have me read on every night. There is often a complexity to real life that is beyond our immediate comprehension, but that only enhances the adventure of it all, and challenges us to keep developing our ability to understand.
It was actually thrilling for me, there in their room, every night, reading this lengthy tale, and witnessing the firing of their imaginations. What long and wonderful discussions we had about compelling questions within the context of this story. Why did the First Foundation react so negatively to their discovery of the Second, which their founder Harry Seldon had put in place for their (the First Foundation’s) benefit? How did one of the more heroic characters, Bayta Darryl, figure out who the Mule was and disguise that fact from the mind-reading mutant? And was it ethical for Darryl to kill her comrade so he could not reveal the location of the Second Foundation to the Mule?
Posted by Cooper Zale, in Adventure