No science-fiction fan should restrict his hobby to the screen. The best stories in science-fiction remain in novels. Whenever I can find the time I read another science-fiction novel in search of a great story. This time it was Isaac Asimov’s Foundation’s Edge. Written in 1982, this novel continues the epic Foundation trilogy that Asimov wrote in the 50’s. Thirty years later the fans’ desire for a continuation of the epic was successful in coaxing Asimov’s publisher to demand a continuation.
Asimov deserves credit for being a pioneer and one of the big minds of science-fiction. The ideas he has brought to his stories earned him the honor of Grand Master of Science-Fiction. However, I do not feel compelled on any level to acknowledge Asimov as a great author. Although his style changed quite a bit from the 50’s to the 80’s, his stories remain dry and simple-minded. This is a shame as it detracts much from the brilliant ideas he built his stories around.
Foundation’s Edge is more than a continuation of the Foundation story, however. Asimov took a look at what other science-fiction authors were doing and decided to hitch a ride on the same train. Other authors of the 80’s, most notably Larry Niven, were creating detailed settings and placing many (or even all) of their stories there. In the early days of science-fiction (when Asimov was writing) authors made a new setting for every novel and short story they told. The setting was created to serve the premise of the story. Starting with Foundation’s Edge Asimov created a “Grand Asimov Universe” that linked the Robot stories with the Foundation stories. It’s worth mentioning here that the Foundation Universe Asimov created in the 50’s was the setting for not only the Foundation Trilogy but also the three Empire Novels. However those 6 books worked well in that setting. The new Grand Asimov Universe welded together two or three science-fiction universes that didn’t belong together. The resulting mishmash of Robot story material and Foundation story material didn’t sit well with me at all. The Foundation epic could have been continued quite nicely without rolling all the other stuff into it.
On its own the novel wasn’t terrible but I wouldn’t recommend it to other science-fiction fans. The leaps of logic that Asimov’s characters find unavoidable seem simplistic. The Second Foundation that was so thoroughly exposed at the end of the original trilogy hides itself again too easily and then is exposed again too easily. The hive mind of planet Gaia is an interesting idea but the way it synthesizes the Laws of Robotics (which Asimov himself saw as full of holes in his later career) and then acts to change the destiny of the galaxy seems flimsy and hard to swallow. Also, the plot device of finding a person with super-rare intuition and then Gaia’s hive mind basing its decision on his unknowable insight seems ludicrous. Even more ludicrous when you consider Gaia based its playbook on ultra logical robots!
Asimov’s early novels and short stories, while a bit dry and simplistic, are worthwhile reading for science-fiction fans. However, his later stories just don’t seem to have as much going for them. Foundation’s Edge may be worth your while but don’t blame me if you don’t like it. You were warned.