The completion of the original Foundation trilogy sees the masterplan of Hari Sheldon righted by his secret safety valve. Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov sees first the Mule and then the First Foundation itself looking for Sheldon’s second institution because they felt it was a threat, while the Second Foundation attempts to keep the plan going forward.
The book is divided between two novellas, the first and shortest concerns the Mule’s search for the Second Foundation so he can destroy it and rule the Galaxy. He sends two men, one “Converted” and one “Unconverted”, to find his enemies and then follows them to the knowledge of both. Yet the Second Foundation had planned a trap for the Mule, who had deduced that his “unconverted” man was a spy which was planned. The Second Foundation psychologically changes the Mule’s mind from conquest into plan rule so he can die naturally. The second story takes up two-thirds of the book and set 55 years after the first with the First Foundation in knowledge of the Second, which endangers Sheldon’s plan. A group of anti-Second Foundation group meets on Terminus with a young lady eavesdropping to figure out how do destroy their rivals, through the actions of this young lady their conspiracy advances and a war between the Foundation and Kalgan is ignited by happenstance. The young lady is helped to Trantor and later sends a message to her father, who is able to apparently destroy the Second Foundation on Terminus and Kalgan. Only for the leader of the Second Foundation to explain to an apprentice the plan for them to disappear from knowledge so they can keep Sheldon’s plan safe.
Unlike the previous book in the trilogy, this book was written comparably well including both plot and characters. With a telepathic element in both stories, this helped the overall narrative and its myriad of “plots within and upon plots” in both. The point-of-view characters while not the roundest of characters were still better than most in Foundation and Empire, though the second novella “Search by the Foundation” is as long as “The Mule” in the aforementioned previous installment Asimov’s writing was noticeably better in handling the length. Though there was a little tediousness to the second novella, it was mild compared to the previous book and frankly the story moved quickly.
Reading Second Foundation reminded me of reading Foundation and why this trilogy is considered a classic of science fiction. Though Isaac Asimov isn’t a perfect writer, his ideas are engaging and this series shows that perfectly especially in this final book of the trilogy.