Foundation and Chaos

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy stands as a cornerstone in the history of science-fiction publishing. After Asimov’s death, his estate authorized the Second Foundation Trilogy, which serves as a prelude to the first trilogy. Three highly accomplished authors have each contributed a volume: Gregory Benford began the trilogy with FOUNDATION’S FEAR (1997), followed by this volume in 1998; the proposed final volume, THE SECRET FOUNDATION, by David Brin, is anticipated in early 1999.

FOUNDATION AND CHAOS opens with the galactic Empire in decline and with Hari Seldon facing a trial on treason charges for predicting it. His predictions are the result of the complex mathematical equations used in his theory of psychohistory. Using psychohistory, Seldon hopes to influence key events to help humankind avoid the worst of the predictions (thousands of years of bloody intergalactic war and chaos). The trial and the events surrounding it represent a Cusp Time in psychohistory; the outcome of these events could significantly impact the future.

In the classic tradition of Asimov, Bear reveals sweeping events involving millions of worlds, billions of people, and tens of thousands of years through the lives, efforts, machinations, and intersecting paths of key characters. These characters are all complex and reflect various aspects of the greater themes established by Asimov in the original trilogy: free will versus determinism; logic and reason versus...

(The entire section is 443 words.)