Short review: Everyone is being manipulated from the shadows, but that's okay because it is all for the greater good.
Now the Mule is gone
But the plan is too perfect
A new threat is there
Full review: This is the fourth book in the Foundation series, and was written after a long hiatus after the publication of the first three. This book picks up some time after the crisis of the Mule in Second Foundation (read review), and builds on the idea that the Second Foundation is manipulating events to keep the Seldon Plan on track. It also introduces the idea that a third, unknown, more subtle, and powerful force is manipulating the Second Foundation itself with an agenda all its own. The book won the 1983 Hugo Best Novel Award, and the 1983 Locus Best Science Fiction Novel Award and I can only assume there weren't very many particularly good nominees that year, or that the voters were giving a backdoor award to the original Foundation trilogy by voting for this book (the original Foundation series was published before the Hugo Awards existed, and thus could not be directly honored, although it won a Hugo Award in 1966 for "Best All-Time Series").
Through various political machinations and subterfuges, the main characters of the book all leave their respective homes and set out across the remnants of the Galactic Empire intent on finding either Earth or the mysterious third force that is apparently manipulating everyone. The novel culminates in a three way showdown between the various forces, and a solution of sorts is provided by the central character of the novel. Ultimately, it is the ending of the novel that doesn't work for me. Asimov reveals his belief that people can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves, but rather must be taken care of by those who are smarter than they are, or who are simply superior at decision making. In the disappointing denouement the main character cavalierly casts aside individual choice in favor of security against an ill-defined and possibly nonexistent threat.
Despite the weak ending, the novel is better than many of the later Foundation books, and is certainly better than the poorly thought out Robot-Foundation ret cons that dominated Asimov's later output. Even so, it is still a fairly mediocre novel, and a very noticeable step-down in quality from the original series.
Previous book in the series: Second Foundation
Subsequent book in the series: Foundation and Earth
1982 Hugo Best Novel Winner: Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh
1984 Hugo Best Novel Winner: Startide Rising by David Brin
1982 Locus Best Science Fiction Novel Winner: The Many Coloured Land by Julian May
1984 Locus Best Science Fiction Novel Winner: Startide Rising by David Brin
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1983 Locus Award Nominees
1983 Nebula Award Nominees
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