The Foundation Trilogy

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“Puts the "psycho" back in psychohistory.”
~ Oscar Wilde on the Foundation Trilogy

“I'll sue! So help me, I'll sue!”
~ George Lucas on the Foundation Trilogy

The Foundation Trilogy is a set of three science fiction novels written by Isaac Asimov about the fall of the Galactic Empire. Asimov based the events in the Foundation Trilogy on the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although the Foundation Trilogy was originally written as a single unified work, it was published in three volumes due to wartime paper shortages.

edit Book I: Foundation

Seldon
Holographic Hari Seldon: "Salvor, you must learn the ways of mathematics, and become a Psychohistorian like your father."

Foundation opens with a restless farmboy named Salvor Hardin who lives on the desert planet Terminus with his Uncle Randu. Salvor yearns for adventure, but gets more than he bargained for when Uncle Randu buys two robots named Daneel and Giskard. Giskard announces that he is the property of a crazy old hermit named Hari Seldon who lives in a cave on the other side of the Arrakis Dunes. That night, Giskard sets off across the Arrakis Dunes, and Salvor and Daneel follow him the next morning.

Eventually Salvor and the two robots reach Seldon's cave. There Salvor finds a prerecorded hologram of Seldon, who tells Salvor that he has been chosen by the power of psychohistory to lead the rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire, which will eventually be overthrown and replaced by a Foundation. The robot Giskard has the plans for the Galactic Empire's new superweapon, a huge battle station called the Visi-Sonor, and Salvor must go to the planet Rhodia and give the plans to Princess Artemisia oth Hinriad, whose father Hinrik is the leader of the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. Salvor emerges from Seldon's cave to find himself surrounded by the Traders, the inhabitants of the Arrakis Dunes, who proclaim him to be their new messiah.

Leaving the Traders under the command of his Uncle Randu with orders to conquer Terminus, Salvor travels with the robots to Terminus City Spaceport and hires a Trader named Han Fastolfe to transport him to Rhodia. When they arrive they find that Rhodia has been destroyed by the Visi-Sonor. The only survivor is Princess Artemisia, who is being held captive by General Bel Riose and Lord Ammel Brodrig. Han and Salvor rescue Artemisia and escape the Visi-Sonor, but Brodrig has placed a hyper-relay on Han's ship and the Visi-Sonor follows them to Terminus.

On Terminus Salvor and Han find that Uncle Randu has led the Traders to victory over the planet's Imperial Governor, Baron Wienis. Salvor defeats the Baron's nephew Lepold in single combat, then leads the Traders in a fleet of starfighters against the approaching Visi-Sonor. Just as the Visi-Sonor is about to destroy Terminus, Salvor drops a torpedo down the garbage chute, destroying the battle station. Bel Riose is killed in the explosion, but Brodrig escapes.

Back on Terminus, Han has organized the Traders into the Association of Independent Traders, and sets out to replace the evil Galactic Empire with an interstellar Free Trade Zone - the Foundation.

edit Book II. Foundation and Empire

Lord Ammel Brodrig has just discovered the secret Foundation base on the ice planet of Haven II, and he sends a fleet of the Imperial Navy to attack it. The attack succeeds, and Princess Artemisia oth Hinriad and Han Fastolfe barely escape in Han's ship. After hiding from the Imperial fleet in an asteroid belt, Han travels to the Upper City on the planet Florina to repair his ship's faulty hyperdrive.

Meanwhile, on Terminus, Salvor Hardin has received another holographic message from Hari Seldon telling him to travel to the planet Helicon to seek an ancient psychohistorian named Bor Alurin. After crashlanding on the swampy planet, Salvor meets Alurin and begins training as a psychohistorian.

Whelan Mule
The Mule, the most fearsome bounty hunter in the Galaxy.

On Florina Han meets his old friend Roj Sarton and they agree on a price for the repair of Han's ship. However, it turns out that Ammel Brodrig is already on Florina, and Han and Artemisia are captured. After being tortured by Brodrig, Han is imprisoned in the Prime Radiant and turned over to a bounty hunter known as the Mule.

Using his newly-awakened psychohistorical powers, Salvor learns that Han and Artemisia are being held captive on Florina, and he leaves Helicon to go rescue them. While he's en route, Roj Sarton releases Artemisia and helps her escape from Florina in Han's ship. When Salvor arrives, Brodrig confronts him. They fight a duel with neuronic whips, and Brodrig slices off Salvor's hand, then reveals that he is Salvor's father. Salvor falls from the Upper City, but is rescued by Roj and Artemisia. They rejoin the Foundation fleet in deep space, where Salvor's hand is replaced by an artificial one, and they set out to rescue Han from the Mule.

edit Book III. Second Foundation

Han Fastolfe, imprisoned in the Prime Radiant, has been sold by the Mule to Keldon Amadiro, the grossly fat ruler of the planet Aurora and Han's mortal enemy. Princess Artemisia oth Hinriad and Roj Sarton infiltrate Amadiro's lair, and when Salvor Hardin arrives they're able to kill Amadiro and the Mule and rescue Han.

Seldon
Holographic Hari Seldon: "Sorry I lied to you about your father, Salvor. Oh, and did I mention there's another Foundation out there?"

Back on Terminus, Salvor and the others learn that the Galactic Empire is building another, even bigger Visi-Sonor to destroy the Foundation. They decide to launch a pre-emptive strike at the second Visi-Sonor while it's still under construction in the Siwenna system. Salvor receives another holographic message from Hari Seldon telling him that there is a second Foundation located "at the other end of the Galaxy, at Star's End".

An advance party made up of Salvor, Han and Artemisia travels to Siwenna to switch off the force field protecting the second Visi-Sonor. Disaster strikes, and Salvor is captured by Ammel Brodrig, who takes him to the Visi-Sonor to meet the Emperor of the Galaxy, Cleon II. When the Foundation fleet arrives, led by Roj Sarton flying Han's ship, they find the force field still in place and themselves being ambushed by the Imperial Navy.

On Siwenna, Artemisia and Han befriend the Barrs, the planet's small, furry natives. Onum, the leader of the Barrs, agrees to help Artemisia and Han attack the force field power station, and his son Ducem leads the Barr army. On the Visi-Sonor, Salvor turns down Cleon's offer to join the Galactic Empire. Cleon reads Salvor's mind and learns about the Second Foundation, which leads to another neuronic whip duel between Salvor and Brodrig. Salvor defeats Brodrig but refuses to kill him, so Cleon starts throwing lightning bolts at him.

On Siwenna the Barr army defeats the Imperial garrison and captures the power station. Han and Artemisia turn off the force field, and Roj attacks the Visi-Sonor. Brodrig kills Cleon before dying himself, and Salvor flees the Visi-Sonor just before Roj blows it up. The Galactic Empire falls, the Barrs sing yub-yub, and everyone lives happily ever after.

edit Themes

Seldon
Holographic Hari Seldon: "X, take this upgrade to your armor!"

Throughout the Foundation Trilogy, Asimov makes it clear that he regards technology as a bad thing. The technological breakdowns that accompany the fall of the Galactic Empire are celebrated as a positive development, liberating the people of the Empire from the deadening monotony of their overmechanized lives. One of the notable motifs of the Foundation Trilogy is the contrast between the satisfaction exhibited by the characters in Asimov's low-technology paradise and the growing sense of alienation and anomie common within our own society.

Asimov explicitly based the events in the Foundation Trilogy on the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. One of the highlights of the Trilogy for readers is Asimov's fictionalized portraits of Presidents Reagan (Hari Seldon), Bush (Salvor Hardin), Gorbachev (Cleon II) and Yeltsin (Ammel Brodrig).

Asimov was one of J. R. R. Tolkien's closest friends at Oxford University, and one of the founding members of the Inklings. The two would read to each other from their works-in-progress and offer critical suggestions, and there is a famous story that the Foundation Trilogy and The Lord of the Rings were the result of a wager between them on who could get the longest novel published. Since the two men freely borrowed ideas from each other, there are numerous similarities between the two works.

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