Stephen Colling’s Foundation’s Resolve is a brilliant fan-written conclusion to a classic science fiction series that has desperately needed one for decades.
In my opinion, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation saga was all over the map in terms of quality. I’m mainly interested in it because in the later books Asimov incorporates elements from his Robots and Empire books, fusing them into one massive timeline. This vast fictional history, combined with the fact that I read the last Foundation book over a decade ago, gave me a huge sense of anticipation when I learned that Foundation’s Resolve existed. Before I’ll tell you how the story gratified my anticipation, I’ll give you a little context about Asimov’s universe.
As a galactic empire totters on the precipice of chaos, the scholar Hari Seldon establishes an academic colony with the official aim of preserving their knowledge in the ultimate encyclopaedia, but in truth is intended to dramatically shorten the oncoming dark age by sewing the seeds of the next empire. Using psychohistory, a science that produces uncannily accurate prophecies from vast amounts of sociological data, Seldon records a series of holographic briefings instructing the Foundation’s leaders on how to respond to the inevitable crises that will define future history while positioning their community as the dominant force in the galaxy.
Although the original Foundation trilogy had a fascinating premise, the characters and writing never felt alive to me. (If you liked it, you should know there’s a radio adaption.) I prefer the two Foundation books Asimov wrote much later, Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth.
After the intuitive politician Trevize and the historian Golan are exiled from the Foundation over a political dispute, they search for the mythical Second Foundation and later Earth. Along the way they meet a planet-sized hivemind called Gaia, who plans to absorb all humanity before expanding into Galaxia, and pick up Fallom, a young hermaphrodite from the isolationist world Solaria. That odd planet featured in one of Asimov’s earlier novels, and it’s these little nods to his previous works that make these later books so gratifying, that thrill of recognition. The greatest thrill comes at the conclusion, where the party encounters R. Daneel in Earth’s moon. Rising from his humble beginnings as a robotic detective in the Elijah Bailey stories, Daneel has been inspired by his idiosyncratic understanding of the robotic laws to protect mankind by secretly manipulating its history. He’s been at it since before the days of Seldon. Daneel confesses he needs Fallom’s brain to continue functioning. That’s where Asimov ends.
And that’s where Stephen Collings starts.
His main narrative thread explores what happens after the Trevize’s fateful meeting with Daneel, with the events leading up to robot’s neurosurgery being intercut with exposition. Exposition is far from a bad thing here, taking the form of robots explaining the true history of the galaxy to humans, and it’s pleasurable to read the way Collings ties up several loose ends by invoking different elements of Asimov’s work. Collings shows he understands how thrilling recognition really can be by including robotic characters from the unpopular Second Foundation Trilogy; Ludovik Trema, Yan Zorma, as well as Dors Venabli, Seldon’s wife/bodyguard from the prequels. Although I’d only encountered Dors before, the others were introduced well enough for me to understand enough of their past to understand their present actions. By the standards of Asimov robots, their arguments against Daneel’s paternalism towards humanity and his insistence on a brain transplant were credible.
The other plot thread concerned Foundation mayor Harlo Branno picking a fight with the Second Foundation and Gaia. I didn’t actually remember Branno from the original books, and her portion of the narrative wasn’t particularly memorable either. I liked the character development of the Hamish woman befriended by one of the Foundation officers in the original books, and I thought the alternation between the plot threads was expertly paced.
After Collings gives us closure for Trevize’s story and Daneel’s operation, he thrusts the rest of the galaxy into an unstable political situation with an even worse threat waiting in the wings. I like this uncertainty, it leaves room for a sequel and makes it clear that Galaxia is not inevitable. One day I want to read a story where the Seldon plan finally blossoms into a second empire, but even then, those aliens from Blind Alley would show up and ruins things for everyone.
The only criticism I have of this story is the format. On FanFiction.net it’s not divided properly into chapters. And that’s really an incredibly minor complaint, the real problem here is that this story hasn’t been published as a paperback novel with gloriously gaudy cover art, complete with the author’s name written in shining silver letters, with a bunch of quotes from credible reviewers saying how great it is and at least one reference to a prestigious science fiction award on the back cover. As things stand, I recommend copying the story’s url into this site, downloading the result and modifying with Calibre until it looks right on your phone, tablet or Ereader. That may sound difficult, but trust me, this story is worth it.
Everyone who loves the Foundation series must read Foundation’s Resolve.