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 (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 of his decision, at the end of Foundation's Edge, to embrace the all-encompassing noosphere of Galaxia.
Part II: Comporellon
First, they visit Comporellon, which claims to be the oldest currently inhabited planet in the galaxy. Upon arrival, they are imprisoned, but negotiate their way out. While there, they find the coordinates of three Spacer planets, 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 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 visit 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 hermaphrodites, 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 the dead. Bliss, Pelorat, and Trevize are nearly killed by the Solarian Sarton Bander; but Bliss deflects the transduction at the moment Bander uses it as a weapon, accidentally killing Bander. While escaping, they acquire Bander's immature child, Fallom, in a state of panic because its robotic nursemaid, like all other robots on the estate, has stopped functioning at the death of its master, and carry her (Bliss, by preference, uses a feminine pronoun on Fallom) aboard their ship to prevent her execution.
Part V: Melpomenia
The crew now visit Melpomenia, the third and final Spacer coordinate they have, where the atmosphere has become reduced to a few thousandths of normal atmospheric pressure. Wearing space suits, they enter a library, and find a statue, as well as 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 use their blasters to destroy it and set the ship to heavy UV-illumination before stepping on board. Because the Spacer worlds were settled from Earth, they form a rough sphere with Earth, and a binary star system, at the centre.
Part VI: Alpha
They next arrive on Alpha Centauri, where they find a remnant of the inhabitants of Earth, who many millennia ago were resettled there. In a reference to the events of Asimov's novel Pebble in the Sky, the restoration of Earth's soil was attempted, but abandoned. Later, as the result of a terraforming project on Alpha, the only dry land is an island 250 km long and 65 km wide, called "New Earth". The natives appear friendly, but secretly intend to kill the visitors, to prevent them from informing the rest of the galaxy of their existence. They are warned by a native woman, and escape. Now certain that Alpha Centauri is not Earth but near it, they approach the remaining system, 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
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. There, they find R. Daneel Olivaw, who explains he has been paternalistically manipulating humanity since Elijah Baley's time, long before the Galactic Empire or Foundation: thus having caused the settlement of Alpha Centauri, the creation of Gaia, and the creation of psychohistory (detailed in Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation), and 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, that the creation of Galaxia is the correct choice. It is revealed that Daneel's positronic brain is deteriorating, and he is unable to design a new brain; wherefore he wishes to merge Fallom's brain with his own, allowing him time to oversee Galaxia's creation.
Daneel continues to explain that human internal warfare or parochialism was the reason for his causing the creation of psychohistory and Gaia. Another reason 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) is 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