Foundation and Earth
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Alan Wallerstein|
|Genre||science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback)|
|Preceded by||Foundation's Edge|
Foundation and Earth is a Locus Award-nominated science fiction novel by Isaac Asimov, the fifth novel of the Foundation series and chronologically the last in the series. It was published in 1986, four years after the first sequel to the Foundation trilogy, which is titled Foundation's Edge.
Several centuries after the events of Second Foundation, two citizens of the Foundation seek to find Earth, the legendary planet where humans are said to have originated. Even less is known about Earth than was the case in Foundation, when scholars still seem to know the location of 'Sol'.
The story follows on from Foundation's Edge, but can be read as a complete work in itself. (It does, however, give away most of the mysteries around which Foundation's Edge is built.)
Part I: Gaia
Councilman Golan Trevize, historian Janov Pelorat, and Blissenobiarella of the planet Gaia (all of whom were introduced in Foundation's Edge) set out on a journey to find humanity's ancestral planet — Earth. The purpose of the journey is to settle Trevize's doubt with his decision at the end of Foundation's Edge to embrace the all-encompassing supermind of Galaxia.
Part II: Comporellon
First, they journey to Comporellon, which claims to be the oldest currently inhabited planet in the galaxy. Although many other planets make that claim, Comporellon has a very long history with which to back it up. Upon arrival, they are imprisoned, but negotiate their way out. While there, they find the coordinates of three Spacer planets. Since the Spacers were the first colonists from Earth back in the ancient days of space travel, their planets are surmised to be fairly close to Earth.
Part III: Aurora
The first Spacer planet they visit is Aurora, where Trevize is nearly killed by a pack of wild dogs, presumed to be the descendants of household pets long since reverted to wolf-like savagery. They escape when Bliss manipulates the dogs' emotions to psychologically compel a retreat, while Trevize uses his neuronic whip on them.
Part IV: Solaria
Next, they go to Solaria, where they find that the Solarians — who have survived the Spacer-Settler conflicts by clever retreat detailed in Asimov's novel Robots and Empire — have engineered themselves into self-reproducing hermaphrodite beings, who have remained generally intolerant of human physical presence or contact. They have also given themselves a natural ability to mentally channel ("transduce") great amounts of energy, and use this as their sole source of power. The Solarians intentionally avoid ever having to interact with each other, except by holographic apparatus ("viewing"), and reproduce only when necessary to replace someone who has died. Bliss, Pelorat, and Trevize are nearly killed by a Solarian named Sarton Bander. Bliss, however, deflects the transducer brain-lobes at the moment Bander tries to use them to kill. Bliss intends to knock out Bander, but has not had sufficient time to learn the full workings of the transducer and accidentally kills it instead. While escaping, they find what they assume to be Bander's immature child, Fallom, in a state of panic because its robotic nursemaid, like all other robots on the estate, has stopped functioning. The child Fallom cannot inherit the Bander estate, as would normally be the Solarian custom, because it is too immature to be able to use its transducer lobes. There being no other place for the child on Solaria, the decision of the robots which immediately arrive to investigate the loss of power is that Fallom is to be destroyed. Upon learning this, Bliss insists that they take Fallom with them.
Part V: Melpomenia
They next go to Melpomenia, the third and final Spacer coordinate they have. They find that the atmosphere has become depressurized to a few thousandths of normal atmospheric pressure. Wearing space suits, they enter a library, and find a statue, as well as writings with the coordinates of all of the Spacer worlds. While departing Melpomenia, they notice a carbon-dioxide-feeding moss has begun feeding on insignificant leakages in their space suits. Barely recognizing this before stepping on their fully pressurized ship — which would have likely been disastrous — they set their blasters to minimum power to fry it off, and then set the ship to heavy UV-illumination before stepping on board. This disinfection procedure kills any trace of the moss, preventing it from spreading to other worlds.
In addition to giving them another 47 Spacer worlds to visit, they now have a vital clue to where Earth may be found. Since the Spacer worlds were settled from Earth, they form a rough sphere with Earth at the centre. Two stars seem to match. One is a binary star, and also on the charts as an inhabited world, though with a question as to where its status should be indicated. The other is uncharted and much more likely to be Earth's star, especially since legends do not mention Earth being part of a binary system. They decide, however, to go first to the binary system, because it may give them clues about what to expect on Earth.
Part VI: Alpha
They next journey to the enigmatic charted system, which turns out to be Alpha Centauri. They find a remnant of the inhabitants of Earth, who many millennia ago were resettled there. In a reference back to the events of Asimov's novel Pebble in the Sky, the restoration of Earth's soil was indeed attempted, but was abandoned. Later, with Earth becoming uninhabitable, a grand project to terraform 'Alpha' was begun. This, too, was not completed; the only dry land is an island 250 km long and 65 km wide. Whether or not the 'entire' population of the dying Earth was sent to Alpha was left open.
The natives, who call their home New Earth, are quite friendly, and Bliss, Trevize, Pelorat, and Fallom decide to enjoy some rest and relaxation. The natives turn out to secretly intend to kill them, to prevent them from ever informing the rest of the galaxy of "New Earth" (the natives are paranoid of being taken by another "Empire" of any kind). They are warned by a native woman, who becomes sympathetic upon hearing Fallom playing the flute with its transducer brain-lobes, and make their escape in the middle of the night.
Now certain that Alpha Centauri is not Earth but is near it, they head towards the uncharted system. They do notice and are puzzled by the very strong similarities between this star and the larger sun of the Alpha Centauri system. Asimov here is drawing attention to an astronomical curio: the nearest star system to Sol contains a star that has the same spectral type, G2 V, though Alpha Centauri A is a little larger and brighter.
Part VII: Earth
Entering the solar system of the uncharted star, they notice it fits legends about Earth's solar system. The sixth planet has very prominent rings, much more so than any known gas giant. Also, the third planet, the one fit for life, possesses an abnormally large moon for any planet other than a gas giant. Obviously this 'is' Earth and its solar system.
On the approach to Earth, they detect it to be highly radioactive, and not capable of supporting life, but, while trying to use the ship's computer to locate Solaria, Fallom calls Trevize's attention upon the moon, which is large enough to serve as a hideout for the forces that lived on Earth. They land there and find R. Daneel Olivaw, who explains he has been paternalistically manipulating humanity for many millennia, and indeed, since Elijah Baley's time, which was long before the Galactic Empire or Foundation. He caused the settlement of Alpha Centauri, the creation of Gaia, and the creation of psychohistory (detailed in Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation). He also manipulated Trevize into making his decision at the end of Foundation's Edge (although he did not manipulate the decision itself).
Trevize confirms that decision, as the numerous narrow escapes have convinced him that the creation of Galaxia is the correct choice. Also, Daneel's positronic brain is deteriorating. He explains he is unable to design a new brain, as it would require extreme miniaturization, to the point where the brain would deteriorate immediately. Thus, he tells his visitors that he wishes to merge Fallom's brain with his own, as Fallom's lifespan is the exceptionally long one of a Spacer. This will buy him time to oversee Galaxia's creation.
Daneel continues to explain, since the dawn of civilization, man has been divided. This was the reason for his causing the creation of psychohistory and Gaia. Another reason this was important was because of the likelihood of advanced life beyond the galaxy eventually attacking humanity. This danger is part of the conclusion to Asimov's book The End of Eternity, in which "Project Eternity" (which manipulated human history to maintain human comfort) had to be destroyed to undo that same extraterrestrial disaster -— extraterrestrials giving humanity no hope of expansion, at which point the birth rate fell, and humanity became extinct.
Foundation and Earth takes place only some 500 years into the 1,000-year Seldon Plan. As detailed by his wife in It's Been a Good Life, Asimov intended to write a sequel, but his attempts were fruitless. He did not know what to do next. This is why he wrote the prequels (Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation) instead.
Trevize mentions that no human ship has ever penetrated the Magellanic Clouds, nor the Andromeda Galaxy or galaxies beyond that. Intelligent aliens have been mentioned in the short story Blind Alley (who end up fleeing to the Magellanic Clouds). No reason is given why humans have not visited other galaxies, which would seem to be within range of the hyperspace drive.
Although hinted at in Foundation's Edge, this book was the first book of the series that merged it with Asimov's Robot series. The radioactive-Earth theme was begun in Pebble in the Sky, which is set thousands of years earlier. R. Daneel Olivaw's role in the events of that novel would later be described in the prequels.
This book serves as a kind of epilogue to the Robot series. Asimov describes what has become of the Spacer worlds of Solaria and Aurora, described extensively in The Naked Sun and the Robots of Dawn, respectively. The author also reveals what has happened to Earth, as described in Robots and Empire.
The book Nemesis, predating the Foundation and Robot series, hints at the motives and origins of Gaia. Humans had a very early contact with the sentient moon Erythro, a very abstract alien intelligence.
In Foundation's Triumph, the last book in the Second Foundation Trilogy authorized by Asimov's estate, another possible future for the Galaxy is discussed. In a conversation between Hari Seldon and Daneel Olivaw, Seldon discusses the possibility that the Foundation will in fact incorporate Gaia into the Second Galactic Empire. He then bets that in a thousand years, well after Galaxia should have been established and removed the need for formal education, there will be editions of the Encyclopedia Galactica published. The fact that two versions of the Encyclopedia are published after this deadline seems to lend credence to the view that Seldon won the bet.
- Foundation and Earth at Worlds Without End