OK, I had forgotten that I hadn't posted a blog review after reading these books, so I'm going to to a two-for-one special. :-)
Both Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth follow world-wise Terminus Councillor Golan Trevize and sheltered acedemic Janov Pelorat, a professor of Ancient History, as they look for the fabled “Origin Planet” of humankind, and Stor Gendibal of the Second Foundation on Trantor as he tracks Trevize across the galaxy. Both Trevize and Gendibal are exiled in similar manners by politcal rivals — Trevize to covertly search for the Second Foundation, and Gendibal to find out which powerful organization has been keeping Seldon's plan on an impossibly perfect path.
Foundation's Edge ends, not with finding “Earth”, but finding Gaia, a planet where all human beings are part of a single super-consciousness which includes all life on Gaia as well as the planet itself. It is Gaia is who has been been making sure there have been absolutely no deviations from Seldon's Plan, something which even the Second Foundation could never do. Gaia, beleiving that Trevize has the talent of making the right decision even on limited data, offers him a choice between three options:
- Mayor Harla Branno's immediate New Empire based upon militarism and ruled by the Federation of Terminus
- The Seldon Plan's New Empire in 500 years based on the mentalist sciences of the Second Foundation
- Super-Gaia, or Galaxia, where all life in the Milky Way will be part of a single concious entity (this will take a few thousand years)
Foundation and Earth starts almost immediately after Foundation's Edge where Trevize had decided upon Galaxia but he is convinced that some entity other than Gaia was responsive for everything that had happened and that this Entity is Earth. All references of Earth had been removed from the Library on Trantor from right underneath the Second Foundation's nose, an incredibly difficult task given their mentalist powers, and Trevize wants to find out why.
Trevize, Pelorat continue to search for Earth, and Bliss, a young woman who is part of Gaia, using Pelorat's collected myths. On their way the find Spacer planets Aurora and Solaria, which figure prominently in th Elijah Baley novels, as well as Melpomenia. On the third world they find a list of all 50 Spacer worlds and their coordinates relative to it. Since the Spacer worlds were the first wave of galactic colonization and were probably settled in regular radial pattern from Earth, Trevize uses this list and adjusts for 20 000 years of stellar drift to find Earth's current position. After hyper-jumping to the centre of the sphere of Spacer worlds Trevize finds two stars &mdash one is listed in his ship's database of inhabited planets with a question mark and the other star is not listed at all. The question mark turns out to be Alpha Centauri and the second planet is indeed Earth, albeit with a lifeless, radioactive surface. Trevize, disappointed and desparate, postulates that maybe the Moon has kept the secret safe and finds R. Daneel Olivaw, Elijah Baley's old robotic partner. Daneel reveals that it was he who was truly behind psychohistory and Gaia and how he has been working to guide things from with the limitations of the Laws of Robotics.
These two novels are my two favourites of all the Foundation stories. In the decades between them and the original short stories, Isaac Asimov had become a better writer and this is evident in his ability to write a broader range of characters and better plots even though his basic style stayed the same. The fictional technology in these books will not date as badly as the other books and nor are his characters so tightly bound to teh stereotypes of the times when the books were written.
I give Foundation's Edge a 4.6 out of 5 and a 4.6 for Foundation and Earth.