Foundation's Edge: The Foundation Novels (Anglais) Poche – 1 octobre 1991
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The First Galactic Empire was falling. It had been decaying and breaking down for centuries and only one man fully realized that fact.
He was Han Seldon, the last great scientist of the First Empire, and it was he who perfected psychohistory-the science of human behavior reduced to mathematical equations.
The individual human being is unpredictable, but the reactions of human mobs, Seldon found, could be treated statistically. The larger the mob, the greater the accuracy that could be achieved. And the size of the human masses that Seldon worked with was no less than the population of all the inhabited millions of worlds of the Galaxy.
Seldon's equations told him that, left to itself, the Empire would fall and that thirty thousand years of human misery and agony would elapse before a Second Empire would arise from the ruins. And yet, if one could adjust some of the conditions that existed, that Interregnum could be decreased to a single millennium-just one thousand years.
It was to insure this that Seldon set up two colonies of scientists that he called "Foundations." With deliberate intention, he set them up "at opposite ends of the Galaxy." The First Foundation, which centered on physical science, was set up in the full daylight of publicity. The existence of the other, the Second Foundation, a world of psychohistorical and "mentalic" scientists, was drowned in silence.
In The Foundation Trilogy, the story of the first four centuries of the Interregnum is told. The First Foundation (commonly known as simply "The Foundation," since the existence of another was unknown to almost all) began as a small community lost in the emptiness of the Outer Periphery of the Galaxy. Periodically it faced a crisis in which the variables of human intercourse-and of the social and economic currents of the time-constricted about it. Its freedom to move lay along only one certain line and when it moved in that direction, a new horizon of development opened before it. All had been planned by Han Seldon, long dead now.
The First Foundation, with its superior science, took over the barbarized planets that surrounded it. It faced the anarchic warlords who broke away from the dying Empire and beat them. It faced the remnant of the Empire itself under its last strong Emperor and its last strong general-and beat it.
It seemed as though the "Seldon Plan" was going through smoothly and that nothing would prevent the Second Empire from being established on timeand with a minimum of intermediate devastation..
But psychohistory is a statistical science. Always there is a small chance that something will go wrong, and something did-something which Han Seldon could not have foreseen. One man, called the Mule, appeared from nowhere. He had mental powers in a Galaxy that lacked them. He could mold men's emotions and shape their minds so that his bitterest opponents were made into his devoted servants. Armies could not, would not, fight him. The First Foundation fell and Seldon's Plan seemed to lie in ruins.
There was left the mysterious Second Foundation, which had been caught unprepared by the sudden appearance of the Mule, but which was now slowly working out a counterattack. Its great defense was the fact of its unknown location. The Mule sought it in order to make his conquest of the Galaxy complete. The faithful of what was left of the First Foundation sought it to obtain help.
Neither found it. The Mule was stopped first by the action of a woman, Bayta Darell, and that bought enough time for the Second Foundation to organize the proper action and, with that, to stop the Mule permanently. Slowly they prepared to reinstate the Seldon Plan.
But, in a way, the cover of the Second Foundation was gone. The First Foundation knew of the Second's existence, and the First did not want a future in which they were overseen by the mentalists. The First Foundation was the superior in physical force, while the Second Foundation was hampered not only by that fact, but by being faced by a double task: it had not only to stop the First Foundation but had also to regain its anonymity.
This the Second Foundation, under its greatest "First Speaker," Preem Palver, managed to do. The First Foundation was allowed to seem to win, to seem to defeat the Second Foundation, and it moved on to greater and greater strength in the Galaxy, totally ignorant that the Second Foundation still existed.
It is now four hundred and ninety-eight years after the First Foundation had come into existence. It is at the peak of its strength, but one man does not accept appearances--
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Toujours aussi plaisant à lire en V.O, Isaac Asimov offre quelques rebondissements dont il a le secret. A lire !
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You know which three. Just so you know where I'm coming from: I've always been primarily a Heinlein fan and Asimov was a close second; although I've read Clarke I never really got into him too much. (Among SF writers since that time, my main loyalties have been to Spider Robinson and James Hogan, and among the _really_ recent ones I've been especially impressed by China Mieville, Richard Morgan, Neal Stephenson, and Robert Sawyer.)
Of the big three, Asimov undoubtedly had the highest literary output as measured in sheer wordage. I've been of the opinion for several years now that the only reason the Good Doctor stopped writing is that somebody went and told him he'd died. I have my own views about what parts of his output were of the highest quality, but there's little doubt that the Foundation series (not a "trilogy"; it was originally published as a series of short stories and novellas) is among his best known.
(He's also known, of course, for his famous robot stories. Long before the current generation of cyberwriters started screaming mouthlessly and crashing snowily, Asimov was writing compelling tales of mechanical intelligence on the presumption that such technology was on _our_ side. And like Heinlein -- and with just as little credit among modern writers -- he anticipated the recent explosion in information technology. For Heinlein, see especially _Friday_; for Asimov, drop by Trantor and visit the Galactic Library.)
He had secured his place in SF history fifty years before his death. But (again like Heinlein) he spent some of his later years tying up his better-known works into one big future-history package (including not only his Foundation stories but also his robot stories and his Galactic Empire novels). I think he did this more successfully than even Heinlein did.
This one -- _Foundation's Edge_ -- was his first return to the world of the Foundation stories after some thirty years. In it, he began to address a big fat problem he had left at the end of the original series of tales: how come the First Foundation bought so easily into the fabrication that the Second Foundation had really been defeated and dismantled, when in fact it hadn't?
Now, I have to say at once that purely _as_ a Foundation novel, this one probably isn't the most satisfying of the bunch. In fact both _Prelude to Foundation_ and _Forward the Foundation_, (excellent novels both, by the way) include _much_ more interesting Foundation-y stuff. But the very points that make this one weak as a Foundation novel also make it strong as an SF novel.
You see, it's hard to write really engaging novels about Hari Seldon's science of psychohistory, because the science itself is supposed to be statistical and to work only in the abstract with large masses of human beings. That fact means that a good psychohistory tale is bound to focus on broad historical forces at the expense of individual character development. Indeed, even in the original series of stories, Asimov had to introduce a radical departure from the Seldon Plan (via the Mule) in order to generate a really compelling human-interest tale.
This novel is probably among Asimov's best in terms of character development. That's one of the reasons I like it best as a novel; it's probably that I tend to empathize with the rebellious Golan Trevize (and to some extent with the equally mavericky Stor Gendibal) and to enjoy hopping around the galaxy with these guys nearly as much as with Lazarus Long.
Unfortunately that's also why it doesn't advance the ball much as far as Foundation history is concerned. _Prelude_ and _Forward_ are filled to the brim with scientific research, Imperial intrigue, and cool plot twists; this one is more of a character piece. It's not that nothing interesting or significant happens; far from it. It's just that the cool stuff mostly doesn't involve the outworking of the Seldon Plan.
At any rate, the Good Doctor was an expert at telling an engaging tale and keeping the reader involved until the very end. I, at least, have found this to be one of his most unputdownable (and the two Foundation prequels are darned close).
I didn't like _Foundation and Earth_ as well (and I'm not sure Asimov served the series terribly well by trying to tie in all the robot stuff), but I hope it returns to print so that I can buy a replacement copy.
Because the plot is one of the book's best features, to say too much about it would spoil the fun for too many readers, so I'll limit myself to one of its most interesting aspects, which is that it attempts to tie together a number of Asimov's works. Without giving too much away, it's fair to say that part of the book's project is to meld the fictional "universes" of the Robot stories, the Empire novels, and THE END OF ETERNITY with that of the FOUNDATION trilogy. Many Asimov fans have derided this decision, claiming that it marks the beginning of his decline as a science fiction writer. For myself, while I can't say that I find the attempt at retrofitting fictional consistency onto highly disparate works to be particularly compelling or convincing, I do find it interesting. Consider that Asimov was an atheist, who argued that in the absence of any persuasive evidence of a Supreme Being (of which he could find none), it was more rational to believe in God's nonexistence than in His existence. Yet for us to credit Asimov's notion of psychohistory, we must posit that certain characteristics are common to all humans. I would contend that the religious or spiritual impulse is such a characteristic, and that as people get older and their desire for comfort, security, and meaning increases, that impulse only gets stronger. I wonder: as Asimov aged, did he channel his own growing spiritual impulse into the project of forcing his fictional creations into an overall rubric, of imposing meaning where none previously existed?
If you're an Asimov fan, FOUNDATION'S EDGE should be required reading. It did, after all, win the Good Doctor the 1983 Hugo award for best novel. On the other hand, if you're new to Asimov, this isn't the place to start. Instead, check out the FOUNDATION trilogy, or the Robot novels (THE CAVES OF STEEL and THE NAKED SUN -- the later ROBOTS OF DAWN and ROBOTS AND EMPIRE were part of Asimov's retrofitting project.) Better yet, read his short stories, collected in two excellent volumes titled THE COMPLETE STORIES I and II. It is those stories which cemented his reputation as a world class sf author, and I would argue that it is that reputation, rather than any particular virtue of this novel, that FOUNDATION'S EDGE's Hugo acknowledges.
Essentially, a couple key people in the First Foundation realize that the Second Foundation survives and is likely still guiding the First Foundation in following the Seldon Plan. Mayor Branno of Terminus sends the young politician Golan Trevize out to attempt to draw the Second Foundation's attention and thus bring them out of hiding.
At the same time, Stor Gendibal of the Second Foundation believes that things are going too smoothly and that some third party may be directing humanity's course, even to the extent of controlling the Second Foundation! He is also aware of Trevize's mission (through a secret agent on Terminus) and thinks that Trevize is headed for a rendezvous with this other organization. So Gendibal sets out to pursue Trevize and to hopefully locate this sinister controlling entity.
Some very surprising information is revealed in the last couple chapters of the book. To fully appreciate the revelations, you should read the four-book Robot series prior to reading Foundation's Edge. In addition, Asimov makes a couple references to the third Empire novel "Pebble In The Sky". Therefore, I recommend first reading the Robot series, then the Empire series (three books), and finally the seven Foundation novels. This will give you Asimov's complete vision in chronological order.
Overall I enjoyed Foundation's Edge and liked the new characters it introduced. It's a fairly long read but the pace picks up when the plot lines begin converging about two-thirds of the way through. As usual, Asimov is heavy on dialogue and is fond of explaining things through debates or discussions between characters. The ending is a bit weak and doesn't resolve everything but fortunately the novel "Foundation and Earth" picks up right where Edge leaves off. I'm looking forward to reading the final chapter in this wonderful saga.