by David Brin



314pp/$25.00/May 1999

Foundation's Triumph

Reviewed by Steven H Silver


In 1997, Gregory Benford published Foundation’s Fear, the first of the "Second Foundation" trilogy, a sequel to Isaac Asimov’s "Foundation" series. The next year saw the publication of Foundation and Chaos, Greg Bear’s entry in the trilogy. The loose-ends they left un-tied, along with several which Asimov left, have now been answered with David Brin’s relatively short Foundation’s Triumph, which looks at Hari Seldon’s life after he finished recording the time vault appearances.

Moreso than either Gregory Benford or Greg Bear, Brin manages to capture Asimov’s voice and setting in Foundation’s Triumph.  Even when incorporating Seldon & Venabili’s adventures among the pans from Foundation’s Fear and the introduction of the Voltaire and Joan of Arc Sims, Brin seems to have gone back and more carefully examined Asimov’s original writings to ensure that the universe depicted would mirror Asimov’s while incorporating more recent scientific theories. Brin has even elected to include the presence of an alien race introduced in the relatively rare short story "Blind Alley."

In fact, by going through the robot novels, the galactic empire novels and the Foundation novels with a fan’s eye, Brin has finally managed to tie up several of Asimov’s loose threads, including explanations for why humans are the only sentient life in the galaxy.  These nods towards the past allow Brin to build a complex plot while giving Asimov's fans something to look for in the novel.

Brin provides the fullest examination of the ramifications of Asimov’s decision to introduce R. Daneel Olivaw into the Foundation universe in Foundation and Earth.   Suddenly, the relatively straight-forward politics of the original Foundation series, as well as Asimov’s additions, are seen as only the surface of a Byzantine complex of attempts to guide the galaxy. Seldon’s awareness of the role of Olivaw and his own stage-managing of the future with the introduction of the Second Foundation is shown to be mere portions of the greater schemes. Brin even manages to include the idea of Gaia and Galaxia from Foundation and Earth in the story, although in a manner which seems to contradict Asimov’s own writing.

Even while dealing with the vast history of the galaxy, Brin manages to focus on individuals.  Not just the main characters, such as Hari Seldon, Dor Venabili or Daneel Olivaw, but also people like Horis Antic, the bureaucrat with a psychohistorical hobby, Jeni Cuicet, the adolescent whose life was ruined when her family was forced into exile from Trantor to work on the Encyclopedia Galactica on Terminus, or Klia and Brann Asgar, the mentalics who Daneel Olivaaw has set Dors Venabili to watch in an exile far from the Second Foundation. Although Brin doesn’t drop any hints, the reader does have to wonder if these are the Mule’s distant ancestors.

In what may be the most intriguing introduction to the Foundation series, Brin introduces several characters by whom Hari Seldon is viewed as a tyrant. In doing so, alternative viewpoints are examined and the nearly deified Seldon becomes something other than the Asimov alter-ego he had begun to become in the later Foundation novels.

At times, Foundation’s Triumph reads like a robot novel, with their heavy examination of Asimov’s laws of robotics, while at other times, Brin is writing a Foundation novel, looking at the politics of the empire’s fall. Although there are some rough spots, Daneel’s debate with Zun comes off somewhat preachy, Brin generally manages a smooth transition between the types of stories.

Brin has also introduced several points which he leaves open, much as Asimov did when writing the original Foundation stories.  Some of these are ideas which could be picked up in further stories and novels which take place concurrently with Asimov's existing books.  Others can pick up following the end of Foundation and Earth, from where Asimov had once planned to continue to sequence.  Whether Brin (or someone else) will ever have the chance to further explore Asimov's universe is a decision left to Asimov's estate.

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