The cover of Forward the Foundation(FTF) advertised the book as the “breathtaking conclusion” to the Foundation saga. I think the description is debatable, considering that FTF is a prequel to Foundation (in fact, the second prequel) so that it is not really a conclusion as much as it is a prequel. “Breathtaking” is stretching it a bit far. Out of all the Foundation books, I find this the weakest.
For me, the biggest weakness of the book is in the Foundation father figure, Hari Seldon, who is right underneath the spotlight for much of FTF. I like Hari Seldon less than when he was purely a myth from the other Foundation novels. He is less likeable here than Prelude to Foundation, as he put his adopted son and family under enormous risks to achieve his own ends. I thought that he was a bit of a dick in this book.
In fact, all the characters in the book almost felt like the same person. I see them as caricatures and barely having a voice of their own. Their sole purpose is to drive the plot along.
Still, there are plot holes here as well that I can’t comprehend. For example, Dors Venabilis we discover (predictably) was a robot, but she breached the laws of robotics by killing Tamwile Elar, where earlier in the book, Seldon saw that Demerzel was at a disadvantage to get things done because he was bound to the laws of robotics. I also found that some of the plot points were too convenient, too fantastic.
Still, FTF is an appropriate book to finish the Foundation saga. FTF finishes where Foundation began — at the twilight of Seldon’s life. The epilogue came from the voice of Hari Seldon himself which expresses his uncertainty of psychohistory, his own brain-child.
FTF, like the other Foundation books is easy to read, but prods the high level questions on academia, leadership and governance. However, compared to the other Foundation books, I find that it doesn’t have the same level of depth. In any case, I’m glad that I got to finish the Foundation series after years of searching for them in secondhand bookshops and bookswap stations (I try to avoid ordering books and prefer to “stumble” into them).