The Foundation created by Hari Seldon has come through three crises and several social changes, but now it must face off against forces of Empire. Foundation and Empire, the second book of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, follows how the Foundation and its citizen responded to threats from Empire—one it’s decaying predecessor and one from a budding conqueror.
Unlike like Foundation with its several short stories, Asimov’s second book featured two novellas entitled “The General” and “The Mule”. The first followed the Imperial war against the Foundation led by the titular general Bel Riose who looked to restore the rule of the Empire, but was stopped short by the Emperor who believed him to be using the war to build up himself as a usurper. The fallout of the war leads the Foundation citizenry to believe during its war with the warlord “The Mule” that eventually something will happen for the Foundation to win. But the Foundation falls to the Mule’s forces as its leadership learns that its next crisis was to be civil war. A small ship filled with Foundation survivors makes its way towards the old Imperial capital to find a way to stop the Mule and find that the Second Foundation might be the key.
Although some might believe the two novellas a better format than the several short stories of the first book, I am of a different opinion. The longer length of the stories unfortunately exposed Asimov’s characters as very flat and his writing somewhat formulaic, especially when it came to the identity of “The Mule”. Yet I have to admit that of the two stories, “The General” was the best because it only took up a third of the book thus protecting the characters from being over exposed. “The Mule” became tedious as the reveal of titular character took its sweet time, even as Asimov attempted to show the decay of the Galactic civilization.
While Foundation and Empire was not as good as the first book of the trilogy, there are still some nice passages and ideas that Asimov has written. Though I was intrigued to find out more about the Second Foundation after finishing the book, it was a long slog to get to that point.