Foundation's Triumph

by David Brin
Series: Second Foundation 3
Reviewed date: 2006 Jan 9
Rating: 3
378 pages
cover art

The Second Foundation Trilogy is

  1. Foundation's Fear, by Gregory Benford
  2. Foundation and Chaos, by Greg Bear
  3. Foundation's Triumph, by David Brin

Foundation's Triumph is easily the best book in the Second Foundation Trilogy, but that fact owes as much to the shoddy work of Gregory Benford and Greg Bear as it does to David Brin's competence. In Foundation's Triumph Brin ties up the loose ends left by Asimov and by Benford and Bear, and he reinterprets some key events in a way that casts R. Daneel Olivaw and Hari Seldon in a new light.

As you may have guessed by now, Foundation's Triumph is not a standalone novel. To fully appreciate it you must have read all of Asimov's Foundation series (7 books), his Empire books (3), his Robot novels (3), his robot short stories, and his various other books linking his series together (at least 2). On top of that you'll need to read the first two installments in the Second Foundation Trilogy.

David Brin expands on the ideas in Bear's Foundation and Chaos: he fleshes out the idea of robot sects (there are more than just the Giskardians and the Calvinians) and he explores in detail the problems that chaos causes for psychohistory and the Seldon Plan.

It seems that chaos, which manifests itself in a very real and material form, threatens to render the Seldon Plan impotent by making it impossible for psychohistory to predict the future. Hari Seldon is aware of this problem, so he sets up a backup plan: a Second Foundation to help counteract the problem of chaos. But he knows that ultimately the Second Foundation is not a solution to the problem of chaos.

Daneel has a backup plan too. And it is here that Brin casts the events of Asimov's universe into a new light: Daneel seeks to serve the Zeroth Law as he interprets it. As he interprets it. He never consults humanity, and as the incredible depth of Daneel's meddling in human history is revealed, he appears less and less an Immortal Servant and more and more an arrogant self-styled god.

David Brin is a good writer and he makes Foundation's Triumph fun to read, but in the end it's too complex. It suffers from that disease which affects any series that has gone on too long: the plot contrivances and reinterpretations of events reaches a point beyond which the suspension of belief is effective. It's simply too much of a stretch. Fiction has to make sense, and the Second Foundation Trilogy does not.

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