I’ve decided I’m just crazy enough to try to read every book that’s ever won the Hugo Award for Best Novel…and, of course, that I want to share this insane experience with all of you. In spite of the Teaching Year from Hell, I am slowly making progress, and we return to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation universe for the 30th official edition of The Hugo Project!
published in 1982
The war between the First and Second Foundations is over, but both sides suspect that there are still other forces at work in the galaxy. The First Foundation searches for the Second, the Second Foundation searches for a mysterious third party, and both find their search drawing them towards the mythical planet Gaia…
Warning! Mild spoilers ahead!
Oh, good, more of this nonsense.
I’ve already talked at length about my problems with the Foundation-verse in my review of the original trilogy, so I’ll try to keep things to a minimum here. This is also another case of “I read this months ago so my memory is fuzzy” so the review will be brief.
I went the audiobook route for this one, like the original trilogy, otherwise I probably would not have made it through. I do remember being intrigued by the plot, and I think this one suffered less from the Foundation Formula than the others did. Still too much of (mostly) dudes discussing various schemes, but at least stuff actually happened. Naturally I was delighted by the various sections that wandered into astronomical minutiae, which probably helped dispel some of my frustration with the lengthy conversations.
The integration of the Robot-verse was much less clunky than I expected, even if it did end up being the source of more declaiming. I definitely loved the Gaia/Galaxia idea – I’m a sucker for the Gaia Hypothesis in all its incarnations and extrapolations. I was a bit annoyed with Trevize the Decider (we all know how I feel about white boys deciding things for everyone) but I did agree with the choice he made at the end, both due to my own bias and because of the reasons he himself gave.
The thing is, for all that it was written in the ’80s, it still feels incredibly like something from the ’50s boys’ club. The female characters, while more numerous than in previous installments, and actually powerful within their realms and significant to the plot, still fall into the annoying categories of either Elderly Bitch Politician (Harla Branno, the female Speaker) or Hot Chick Who Improbably Chooses to Love a Boring Dude over Anything Else in Her Life (Sura Novi, Bliss). I can’t really get into it much without massively spoiling the plot, but I am exceptionally pissed about Sura Novi. While I will fight for the rights of real women to make whatever decisions they please, I could never be anything but deeply offended by a female character written by a man choosing to essentially destroy her own intelligence in favor of an artificial identity that’s in love with a man.
Anyway. I was even interested in the proposed plot for the next book – Foundation and Earth – because, all right, dammit, I do want to know what happened to Earth. But I just don’t have it in me to go through 400+ more pages of this kind of story. There are many other works in the Foundation-verse, written both by Asimov and others, but I think I have paid my dues. It’s time to move onto something with a bit less clunk.
Race: I don’t remember much of the physical descriptions, although I’m pretty sure that Trevize was described as white and I seemed to get the impression that the Sayshellians were coded as SE Asian.
Gender/Sexuality: Basically discussed above. No mention of anything out of standard gender binary/heteronormativity that I recall
Other: I really don’t remember.
OVERALL RANKING: 6 out of 10 (rankings subject to change as my sample size increases).