As I read Foundation and Empire, I was struck by how much I liked Foundation by comparison. Aside from the thematic elements that kept me engaged, as I thought back on it, I liked how Asimov wrote about how individual people, while important and significant at the time, are only incidental over the 150 years the novel covers. Even Hari Seldon, the creator of the Foundation, is featured in only 25 pages or so of the entire novel.
Foundation and Empire is less epic, though not less incidental. The novel is comprised of two novellas, one highlighting the fall of the Empire, the other highlighting the fall of Seldon's prophecies. The one about the fall of the Empire should be interesting and engaging, but it reminded me more of George R.R. Martin's Archmaester Gylden stories, where they're more about talking about how it happened instead of showing us how it happened. To be honest, I lost focus in the story a lot, enough so that when I got to the end of it, I wasn't entirely sure if I had followed the details well enough.
The second novella, though, concerning the Mule, was what I remembered the most from having read the book before. It was fascinating to read about a character who was able to completely skew Seldon's predictions, especially when the first book (and the first half of this book) hammered home the idea that one couldn't predict the future based on an individual, and that one would have to look at the group instead. The Mule proved Seldon wrong.
I'm curious to see how the next book shapes up based off of the ideas that Asimov created with the first two. I'll be going into uncharted territory with Second Foundation, and while it's obvious that the book will be about the other Foundation on the other end of the galaxy, what about the Mule? Will he continue to play a part in the events in the series?
I liked this book a little less than I did Foundation, despite enjoying the way that the half about the Mule read more like a mystery novel than a science fiction novel. The first half just wasn't engaging, and the ideas presented here weren't as grandiose or interesting as those formulated with Foundation. As a part of the overall series, though, I'll have to see how the rest of it shapes up to get a feel for how it fits into the whole.