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Second Foundation is a science-fiction novel written by Isaac Asimov. It is the last of the classic Foundation trilogy in the Foundation series. The book is made up of two parts which were originally published separately in Astounding Science Fiction. The first part appeared in the January 1948 issue of Astounding under the title "Now You See It--", while the second appeared in the November 1949, December 1949, and January 1950 issues under the title "--And Now You Don't".

This article, Second Foundation (novel), contains spoilers. Be forewarned, plot and/or ending details follow.
Asimov says you decide.


Search by the Mule

(published in January 1948 as Now You See It--)

Several years after his defeat at the hands of Bayta Darell, who prevented him from learning where the elusive Second Foundation hides, The Mule keeps searching for it with the intention of destroying it, so he can forge a new Galactic Empire without opposition.

His second in command is Han Pritcher, former Captain of the Foundation's intelligence service and now General of the Mule's forces. During this time, Pritcher has led several unsuccessful expeditions to seek the Second Foundation, but now the Mule has him prepare for a new one, which will be led by up-and-coming military prodigy Bail Channis, telling Pritcher that, as Channis has not been mentally manipulated, he might be able to make an intuitive jump of logic that will guide him to the Second Foundation. At the same time, he tells Channis that he believes there are Second Foundation moles in his Union of Worlds, and needs him to prevent Pritcher from falling to those moles.

Channis leads the search to a little known star nation called Tazenda, which is a plausible place for the Second Foundation to be hiding away based on Seldon's clue about it being hidden at the "Star's End". Rather than going for the main planet, Pritcher and Channis visit Rossem, a planet controlled by Tazenda. During their stay there, Pritcher comes to the conclusion that Channis is a member of the Second Foundation and tries to arrest him, but Channis manipulates him into believing that that's what the Second Foundation wants. The Mule appears then, and tells Channis he knows he is from the Second Foundation, as he proved himself to have mentallic powers during their initial audience.

A standoff forms when Channis undoes the Mule's manipulation of Pritcher while keeping him at hold. The Mule acquiesces to a truce, but soon reveals that he has sent his fleet against Tazenda, believing it to be the home of the Second Foundation, but while mentally torturing Channis, the member of the Second Foundation stutters that Tazenda is just a veil, as Rossem is the actual world of the Second Foundation.

The First Speaker of the Second Foundation joins the conversation, and he surprises the Mule with a number of revelations: Rossem is not the Second Foundation's homeworld, and the only reason Channis believes so is because he was mentally manipulated by the Foundation before going into his mission. And, worse of all, the Second Foundation's moles in the Mule's navy are ready to undo the mental manipulation suffered by the Union's high-ranking officers, destroying his empire and ensuring he won't be able to rebuild it. This makes the Mule drop his mental defenses for a second, enough to allow the First Speaker to modify his mind so he will stop trying to create a Galactic Empire, remaining content with what he has.

Search by the Foundation

(published from November 1949 to January 1950 as --And Now You Don't)

A few decades after the Mule's death of natural causes, the members of the First Foundation are now fully aware that the Second Foundation exists (while they had known of its existence before, the actions of the last few years have ensured they are aware that it is close). This situation creates a love-hate relationship from the First towards the Second, as the First hates the fact that the Second will eventually take over to form the Galactic Empire, yet they are aware of them being the Foundation's "guardian angel" and have lost much of their drive.

A group of friends of different walks of life (doctor Toran Darell (son of Toran and Bayta Darell), researcher Pelleas Anthor, librarian Homir Munn, physicist Elvett Semic and journalist Jole Turbor) decide to start their own small conspiracy, with the aim of finding out where the Second Foundation is hidden. The group convinces Munn to go to Kalgan, the Mule's former imperial capital, in order to investigate the Mule's personal archives: since he owns one of the largest collections of information about the Mule, it would be less suspicious than if any of the others did so.

Unknown to them, young Arcadia "Arkady" Darell, Toran's daughter, has been eavesdropping, and decides to join Homir as a stowaway in his ship. Homir finds her mid-travel, and Arkady convinces him to join him, since it will look a lot less suspicious given their pseudo-familial relationship.

While Arkady enjoys spending time in Kalgan, the current Kalgan warlord, Lord Stettin, considers Homir's request and decides to reject it. He does, however, change his opinion after his lover, Callia, returns from talking with Arkady and tells him the Second Foundation might be considering replacing Terminus with Kalgan as the center of the future Empire.

Homir enjoys his time in the Mule's palace, growing smitten with Lady Callia at the same time. For Arkady, though, things slowly turn to the worse as Lord Stettin begins to show an unnatural interest in her (on the basis of her youth and Hober Mallow being one of her ancestors), only for things to crash when Lord Stettin has Homir imprisoned. Lady Callia helps Arkady escape Lord Stettin's palace so she can return home, but Arkady realizes Callia is actually a Second Foundation agent.

Spurred on by this discovery, Arkady decides to go to Trantor instead of Terminus. Lord Stettin's men manage to arrive to the spaceport before her ship leaves, but Preem Palver and his wife, a pair of humble Trantorian farmers, help her escape by claiming she is their niece.

Back in Terminus, relations with Kalgan worsen as news filter back. Pelleas Anthor tells Toran Darell about Arkady's escape to Trantor and urges him to go with her, but Toran decides to remain in Terminus as Kalgan declares war on the Foundation.

Kalgan wins the first battles in the war, slowly sinking the Foundation into a state of despair, but Toran remains confident that victory is in their reach while he uses the resources the Foundation government has given him for a secret project.

In Trantor, Arkady worries about her father and Terminus, and she convinces Preem Palver to establish trade with Terminus, pointing out that they are going to need a lot of food if they become besieged, also asking the man to bring a message to her father. Preem Palver reaches Foundation space just before a battle between Foundation and Kalgan forces, with Jole Turbor saving him from being shot as a spy, having learned of Arkady's adventure through her father.

The battle ends up in a surprisingly smashing victory for the Foundation forces, who lose few ships while the best of Kalgan's fleet becomes destroyed. This defeat is enough to make Lord Stettin ask for peace terms, and the Foundation-Kalgan war becomes listed in the Encyclopedia Galactica as the last major conflict before the rise of the Second Empire.

With the war ended, the five men from earlier meet again to discuss the changed situation, with Pelleas Anthor pointing out they still don't know where the Second Foundation is. Homir Munn shares his belief that the Second Foundation has never existed, but a mental analysis proves his mind has been manipulated. Pelleas Anthor states that he thinks the Second Foundation is in Kalgan.

Toran Darell then reveals what he has been doing in his time since their last meeting: he has managed to invent a device that causes "mind static", a state that jams telepathic abilities and causes telepaths great headaches. However, while a good defence, it's not enough to attack telepaths, and the Second Foundation is still out there. Then, Toran states where the Second Foundation is hiding: Terminus.

Arkady's message was "A circle has no end". Since Terminus is at the edge of the galaxy, which has the form of a disc, the "other end of the galaxy" would be the other end of the galaxy's outer edge, that is, Terminus itself. When Pelleas Anthor rejects the idea, Toran turns the mind static device to full power, causing Anthor to collapse in pain. Anthor confesses that he is an agent of the Second Foundation, formed by himself, Callia and about fifty others in Terminus and other planets: the First Foundation captures and executes all of them, and believes it has destroyed the Second Foundation.

Fate of the Second Foundation

Unknown to them, though, the Second Foundation lives: the events that have happened in the last decade and a half have been part of a long-range plot developed by Preem Palver, the First Speaker of the Second Foundation, to both give the First Foundation the confidence of being able to stand on their own while the Second Foundation returns to hiding in the shadows, as was expected. The location of the Second Foundation is also revealed to be Trantor, with several explanations:

  • First, the galaxy is a double spiral, and with the Foundation at the end of one arm, the "other end of the galaxy" would be the other end of the same arm, the center;
  • Second, Hari Seldon was a social scientist, not a physical one, so "the other end of the galaxy" should have been considered in the social sense: since Terminus was at the point where the Empire's power and prestige was the weakest, then "the other end of the galaxy" would have been the point where the Empire's power and prestige was the strongest;
  • Third, Trantor was called Star's End, due to the ancient saying "All roads lead to Trantor, and that is where all stars end."
Isaac Asimov Novels
Robot Series: The Caves of Steel | The Naked Sun | The Robots of Dawn | Robots and Empire
Empire Series: The Stars Like Dust | The Currents of Space | Pebble in the Sky
Foundation Series: Prelude to Foundation | Forward the Foundation | Foundation | Foundation and Empire | Second Foundation | Foundation's Edge | Foundation and Earth

See Also

List of Books by Isaac Asimov