Second Foundation

by Isaac Asimov

Paperback, 1991





Spectra (1991), 279 pages


So far the Foundation was safe. But there was a hidden Second Foundation to protect the first. The Mule has yet to find it, but he was getting closer all the time. The men of the Foundation sought it, too, to escape from Mule's mind control. Only Arkady, a 14 year-old girl seemed to have the answer, or did she ...?


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

279 p.; 6.9 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member JohnFair
This conatins what Asimov had thought was to be the final entries in the Foundation saga and details the search for the Second Founadtion, all that lay in the way of Galactice Empire by the Mule, mutant conqueror of the Foundation, and then by the reborn Foundation a couple of generations after the
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Mule's death. In the second part, the one with the cabal of Foundation citizens looking to destroy their rival Foundation we get some of the best writing of the entire series and one of his more interesting characters in the young Arkady Darrell. We also get the only front seat visit to a space battle in the series. Overall a satisfactory read
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LibraryThing member scottcholstad
Well, what do you know? Asimov CAN actually write a decent book! I'm literally shocked! After reading the absolute disasters that the first two Foundation books were in terms of both plot and writing (the writing was atrocious, along the lines of a young high schooler with a couple of years of
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English classes under his belt at best), I was convinced that Asimov's incredible reputation was completely fraudulent and I was curious how he or his publishers had pulled it off. This book helped repair that image to a certain degree in my eyes. In this book, it's apparent that Asimov might have actually taken a college English class or two, maybe even a writing class, in between writing the previous Foundation books and this one, because he has now learned the meaning of the word "transitions," something he had previously never heard of. It's still not his strong point and I suspect it never will be, but at least he can now string a few sentences and paragraphs together in English without sounding like a total idiot. He's also learned a little bit more about character development, not enough, but much more than he ever displayed in the previous Foundation books. That's a bit of a relief. Furthermore, after almost completely ignoring women as characters in the previous books, particularly the first one, a couple play prominent roles in this book, particularly one young teenage girl who plays a very strong role in the second half of this novel. Refreshing. Maybe he's not a total chauvinist pig after all. I suspect he is, but maybe he's trying to overcome that to some small degree.

Second Foundation is the third book in the original Foundation trilogy, given the one time Hugo award for the best sci fi/fantasy trilogy series of all time, beating out Lord of the Rings, among others. That continues to astound me, as I can find no rational explanation for that. Nonetheless, the series is held in high regard by many. The first book centered around one Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian in the far distant Galactic Empire which is crumbling and he knows it, so he sets about mathematically sort of telling the future and developing a plan to put together a second Empire within 1,000 years and to do so, he establishes two Foundation worlds on opposite ends of the galaxy to prepare for this. The first Foundation is comprised of physical scientists who deal mostly with nuclear energy and who go on to dominate the worlds around them, creating their own small empire. They are destroyed by a mutant called the "Mule" in the second novel. The second Foundation is made up of psychologists who have developed mind control techniques similar to the Mule's own abilities and who are determined to remain hidden and follow the Seldon Plan no matter what.

This book is divided into two halves. In the first half, five years after the Mule has conquered the first Foundation, he is ready to seek out and find and conquer the second Foundation and for that he sends his general Hans Pritcher with an accomplice in search of it. And it seems they find it. And the Mule shows up hot on their tail, seeking to confront the First Speaker of the Second Foundation, only to find more than he bargains for. It's a pretty cool scene. In the second half of the book, 50 years have gone by and the First Foundation has now become convinced that the Second Foundation is their real enemy, for some bizarre reason, so they're paranoid and groups of them are searching for the location of the Second Foundation. Meanwhile, the Mule's replacement warlord on a nearby planet decides he wants to conquer the first Foundation and prepares to attack. A 14 year old Foundation girl, Arcadia Darell, stows away on a ship bound for his planet with a family friend being sent there presumably to study the Mule for academic purposes, but actually to spy for Second Foundation evidence. Arkady becomes friendly with the leader's mistress, who helps her escape when war is imminent, and she leaves for Trantor, where she is "saved" by a farmer and his wife, who take her in and take care of her, particularly after they find out about the war between Kalgan and Foundation. Her father, and some friends, are leading the war effort, but they've also been leading in the secret fight against the Second Foundation, so when Arkady finds out the location of the Second Foundation, somehow, somewhat miraculously, she convinces her farmer protector to fly to Foundation and take food to aid the Foundation people and to tell her father five words that he would be able to interpret and would enable him to know where the Second Foundation is located. The things that follow are enough to make anyone's head spin, because there are so many twists and turns and stops and starts and crazy things happen and you get to what you think is a happy conclusion, only to find there's one more chapter, and with it, perhaps an even better conclusion. Great ending to a meh series. This is probably a five star book, but I can't bring myself to give it five stars because I'm still so ticked off at how utterly bad and horrible the preceding book was, a one star book, and at how fairly bad the first book was, and at how overrated this whole series is. I'm also astonished at what I think is Asimov's lack of sci fi foresight. Even writing as far back as he did, he still should have been able to predict some technology advances better than he did. Philip K. Dick was writing at the same time and did a much better job, on the whole, than Asimov did. For instance, this is what, 30,000, 50,000 years in the future, and people are still reading hard copy newspapers when they get out of their space ships? Seriously? In his books, microfilm is about as high tech as digital storage gets. Nuclear energy and power 50,000 years in the future is the pinnacle of scientific advancement and civilization. Obviously, it never occurred to Asimov that maybe, just maybe, humanity might have advanced beyond the nuclear era sometime over the next 50,000 years. It's utterly mind boggling how devoid of sci fi ideas he was. And he was a scientist. That's the thing that really gets me. I've got to say that in my opinion, he's got to be the most overrated writer in the history of humanity, with 500 books to his credit, yet displaying very little imagination on the whole, total male chauvinism throughout his career, complete lack of sci fi technological foresight, his total obsession with Multivac in his short stories, the one and only world wide computer that is hundreds of miles big. He can't even comprehend desktop computers. He takes a stab at palmtops, but can't even come up with laptops or cell phones or email or the Internet or anything cooler than that that might turn up 100, 1,000, 10,000 years from now. No imagination. Where did he get his reputation from? He was pretty original with his robots, but after his first robot story or two, it got pretty repetitive and he spent half of his future stories rehashing the Laws and everything they implied. Boring. This book was good and I enjoyed it and for that I was glad. I'd like to give it a higher score, but in my opinion, the Foundation series is at best a three star trilogy, so at best, this is a four star book. Whatever the case, this book, at least, is recommended, unlike the others.
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LibraryThing member jasonlf
Last read this trilogy as a teenager, it has aged well both in terms of the passage of time and, hopefully, slightly more mature tastes on my part. Although I don't find it a particularly profound meditation on free well, the law of large numbers, and the great man theory of history. Not sure if is
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intended to be, but it is a great story.

The trilogy really picks up with the introduction of the Mule in the second half of this book. It runs at a fast pace through the end of Second Foundation. At some point it has a slightly Scooby-Doo feel as successive masks are pulled off characters/plots. And ultimately it is a bit dehumanizing. Except for social psychologists (who seem a lot like economists) who end up in charge of the galaxy. Only fair.
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LibraryThing member sgerbic
Reviewed March 1998

Again another detailed woman character who leads us into adventure, and also again we learn that she doesn't control her new destiny. We see the end of the Mule and the next crisis of Sheldon. Again Asimov leaves you wanting more, I can't imagine fans of this series having to
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wait until 1982 for the next in the series, "Foundation's Edge" for more answers/questions...

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LibraryThing member StormRaven
Second Foundation picks up where Foundation and Empire left off - with the Mule hunting for the Second Foundation, which constitutes the only real threat to his hegemony. Like Foundation and Empire, the book is divided into two main parts.

The first part details the Mule's continued efforts to find
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the Second Foundation, and the Second Foundation's attempts to foil those efforts. Finally, the Second Foundation protects itself by simply modifying the Mule's thoughts so that he has no interest in fidning them. Since the Mule is a mutant, the Second Foundation reasons that the plan can be placed back on track after he dies and his ability to control other people dies with him.

The second half of the book takes place after the Mule's death and covers the Second Foundation's efforts to hide itself once more following their "outing" during the reign of the Mule. It is revealed that the Second Foundation was a mirror of the original Foundation - while the Foundation was stocked with experts in the physical sciences and specifically included no psychohistorians, the Second Foundation was made up of psychohistorians and experts in "mentalics" (telepathy and related psionic abilities). With the Mule gone, the Foundation regains its independence and smashes his now leaderless empire. But, they are offended that they might be manipulated by the Second Foundationers and try to find them themselves, using their physical science expertise to develop an anti-telepath device. Knowing only that the Second Foundation is at "stars end" or the "other end of the galaxy" they reason the Second Foundation must also be on Terminus (since that would be the "end" if you went around the galactic disk), and find and eliminate what they think is the threat.

They are wrong, of course, and the whole affair was set up by Second Foundationers to hide their existence again. Since they are made up of experts in psychohistory, they have been safeguarding the plan and keeing it on track (the Mule notwithstanding), but they couldn't do that if the Foundation knew they were being manipulated, so they arranged to hide again, and return to "stars end" - Trantor.

The events in this book are, to me, what separates the Foundation books from most of the science fiction that preceded it. Instead of huge battles between starships settling things, the battles are a sideshow. What is more important is the manipulation of the people who control the starships, and the ability to misdirect, allowing for the manipulators to take a long view of history. This book shows the mechanics of the Seldon plan, without cheapening them, which is a difficutl task (many books that expose the hidden details of a setting or plot often detract from its impact, see for example, Prelude to Foundation and the other later written Foundation books). The book is disturbing in some ways, as an elite group of self-appointed shepherds end up directing things from the shadows, which I find to be an unsettling prospect (the wisdom of which is annoyingly never really examined in any of the books of the series, not the original trilogy, not the sequels, and not the prequels). This, with the rest of the original Foundation trilogy, should be on every science fiction reader's bookshelf.
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LibraryThing member mattries37315
The completion of the original Foundation trilogy sees the masterplan of Hari Sheldon righted by his secret safety valve. Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov sees first the Mule and then the First Foundation itself looking for Sheldon’s second institution because they felt it was a threat, while
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the Second Foundation attempts to keep the plan going forward.

The book is divided between two novellas, the first and shortest concerns the Mule’s search for the Second Foundation so he can destroy it and rule the Galaxy. He sends two men, one “Converted” and one “Unconverted”, to find his enemies and then follows them to the knowledge of both. Yet the Second Foundation had planned a trap for the Mule, who had deduced that his “unconverted” man was a spy which was planned. The Second Foundation psychologically changes the Mule’s mind from conquest into plan rule so he can die naturally. The second story takes up two-thirds of the book and set 55 years after the first with the First Foundation in knowledge of the Second, which endangers Sheldon’s plan. A group of anti-Second Foundation group meets on Terminus with a young lady eavesdropping to figure out how do destroy their rivals, through the actions of this young lady their conspiracy advances and a war between the Foundation and Kalgan is ignited by happenstance. The young lady is helped to Trantor and later sends a message to her father, who is able to apparently destroy the Second Foundation on Terminus and Kalgan. Only for the leader of the Second Foundation to explain to an apprentice the plan for them to disappear from knowledge so they can keep Sheldon’s plan safe.

Unlike the previous book in the trilogy, this book was written comparably well including both plot and characters. With a telepathic element in both stories, this helped the overall narrative and its myriad of “plots within and upon plots” in both. The point-of-view characters while not the roundest of characters were still better than most in Foundation and Empire, though the second novella “Search by the Foundation” is as long as “The Mule” in the aforementioned previous installment Asimov’s writing was noticeably better in handling the length. Though there was a little tediousness to the second novella, it was mild compared to the previous book and frankly the story moved quickly.

Reading Second Foundation reminded me of reading Foundation and why this trilogy is considered a classic of science fiction. Though Isaac Asimov isn’t a perfect writer, his ideas are engaging and this series shows that perfectly especially in this final book of the trilogy.
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LibraryThing member Karlstar
One of the best science fiction novels of all time. Not complicated, but quite amazing in scope. If you are looking for a lot of action or giant space battles, this isn't the book for you, but it is a good examination of what human politics would be like on a galactic scale.
LibraryThing member Algybama
Arkady's stowaway plot closely mirrors Gibson's Chia story in Idoru.

The weakest of the trilogy.
LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is the final novel of Asimov's original Foundation trilogy, and the individual novellas of which were first published at the end of the 1940s and in book form in the 1950s - where the series ended until the author returned to it in the early 1980s. Like Foundation and Empire, it is a book of
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two parts, with the first third concerning the Mule's unsuccessful attempt to locate the Second Foundation. As one of the most interesting and memorable characters in the saga, it is a pity we see no more of him after this. The bulk of the book concerns the attempts by scientists of the first Foundation on Terminus to locate their counterpart, set up by Seldon "at the other end of the Galaxy" hundreds of years before. This also features only the second proper female character in the trilogy, Arkady Darrell, a precociously intelligent 14 year old and the granddaughter of Bayta Darrell, who defeated the Mule at the end of the second book. But I don't think the narrative drive of this section works as well as in that book, so overall this novel is not quite as enjoyable as its predecessors.
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LibraryThing member hskey
I believe the entire Foundation story is more than the sum of its parts. Since I started with the Robots series, I have huge expectations going forward. It was clear early on that Asimov got better as he got older. Since these were written REALLY early in his career, they're not quite as good.
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Characters are a bit loose, and I often feel like I'm playing catchup.

That being said - really enjoyed this book. The whole concept of the two Foundations, Hari Seldon's Plan, the Mule, the psychological/physical war between space civilizations is absolutely compelling and exciting to read. It's easy to put yourself thousands of years in the future. I loved Arkady's story, although I still feel the whole book was disjointed as it was basically two short stories mushed together. Still, fantastic stuff and another great ending. The location of the Second Foundation definitely surprised me but, as always, made sense in the world Asimov's created.
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LibraryThing member neurodrew
Second Foundation
Sunday, August 4, 2013 2:24 PM
Isaac Asimov

The third in the Folio volumes, I paid particular attention to the vivid illustrations, done in bright colors in a bold cartoon style. The mule finds the Second Foundation, but is undone, allowing, by a momentary lapse of his mental guard,
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the First Speaker to alter his mind, convincing him that the Second Foundation did not exist. Five years later, the original Foundation on Terminus is powerful again, but there are some of the scientists who are developing an advanced science of electroencephalography, finding evidence of Second Foundation tampering with brain patterns, and eventually developing a device that protects individuals from mind alteration. They think they have found and eliminated the Second Foundation because they round up about 50 individuals working on Terminus. They are also able to win a conventional war with a local despot, without any mental help. The Seldon plan is thus saved, because the Foundation recovers its courage and does not expect help from the Second Foundation, now revealed as farmers on Trantor. In a brave move for a science fiction author, the main heroic character is an adolescent girl, and her character is not overwhelmingly a sexist stereotype. The book was published in 1953, and there is imagined a computerized mapping and navigation device.
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LibraryThing member gilag
By GALAXY! This was a fun trilogy. This is why I love science fiction.
LibraryThing member isabelx
Pritcher left his air car at the old vice-regal hangars and entered the palace grounds on foot as was required. He walked one mile along the arrowed highway--which was empty and silent. Pritcher knew that over the square miles of palace grounds, there was not one guard, not one soldier, not one
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armed man.
The Mule had need of no protection.
The Mule was his own best, all-powerful protector.
Pritcher's footsteps beat softly in his own ears, as the palace reared its gleaming, incredibly light and incredibly strong metallic walls before him in the daring, overblown, near-hectic arches that characterized the architecture of the Late Empire. It brooded strongly over the empty grounds, over the crowded city on the horizon.
Within the palace was that one man--by himself--on whose inhuman mental attributes depended the new aristocracy, and the whole structure of the Union.

In the third book of the Foundation Trilogy, the mysterious Second Foundation comes to the fore. Firstly they have to deal with the Mule, as he tries to track down the location of the Second Foundation, but this causes more problems. The people of the original Foundation on Terminus, suspecting that the Second Foundation stopped the Mule in his tracks by using similar mental powers to his own, come to believe that the Second Foundation is all-powerful and can easily keep the Seldon Plan on track. This causes them to stop reacting naturally and further threatens the plan which has already been compromised by the Mule, so the Second Foundation somehow need to get the plan back on track.
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LibraryThing member uvula_fr_b4
Second Foundation concludes the original Foundation Trilogy (it was preceded by Foundation and Foundation and Empire), and almost manages to recapture the energy and sense of fun of the first book that was nearly frittered away by the doldrums of the second. Consisting of two previously published
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stories (well, a novelette and a novella: "Now You See It --," retitled here as "Part I: Search By the Mule," and "-- And Now You Don't," retitled here as "Part II: Search By the Foundation"), Second Foundation explores the aftermath of the (First) Foundation's biggest defeat, at the hands of a super-powerful, telempathic mutant, called The Mule (his more dignified title, once he's essentially assumed control of the [First!] Foundation's budding empire, is "First Citizen," probably a play on Asimov's part on the Roman title "Princeps," from whence comes the word "prince"; incidentally, The Mule's psionic powers -- the ability to read and manipulate the emotions of another person -- are at least as powerful as those of Professor Charles Xavier of Marvel Comics' X-Men comic books, given that The Mule is capable of altering and controlling an effectively infinite number of people at the same time), and the search by some members of the First Foundation for the nigh-mythical Second Foundation -- hence the book's title.

The Foundation, of course, was the creation of one Hari Seldon, who managed to wed statistical analysis to mass psychology and thus was able to predict with phenomenal accuracy the shape and flow of large human societies (at least 40 billion people were needed as a sample in order to get accurate predictions), and recruited enough followers to form a small, select scientific society to guide human history from the shadows and ensure that "civilization as we know it" (in this case, in the galactic empire sense) and scientific knowledge won't be lost to hundreds or thousands of years of barbarism when the original galaxy-spanning Empire, as empires must, falls. Whereas the First Foundation was a public, technocratic organization, the Second Foundation was a super-secret, inward-looking group of psychologists -- "parapsychologists" wouldn't be inapt here, given how much they seek to reactivate their own dormant "wild talents," to use Jack Vance's phrase for psionic powers, such as telepathy and telempathy -- who were set up to make sure that the First Foundation didn't fail, or become suborned by corrupting influences.

The first section of Second Foundation is by far the weaker: pat, rote, more of an amusement or exercise than a developed story. The second section starts out even worse, given Asimov's inept handling of the POV of a 14-year-old girl genius named Arcadia (later styled "Arkady") Darell, granddaughter of a major character from the second part of Foundation and Empire, but once he gets the plot rolling it picks up nicely enough. (Give it about twenty pages.) This second section comes the closest of any of the original trilogy to wedding conspiracy theory to pulpy sci-fi ("'It's always easy to explain the unknown by postulating a superhuman and arbitrary will'"; p. 171), which to my mind is a good thing. If Second Foundation doesn't come to a finish quite as rousing as Asimov apparently intended, at least it makes a fitting conclusion to the original trilogy.

That said, the original trilogy did not endear itself to me to the point where I feel even a half-hearted desire to read any of its continuations, either by Asimov himself (some thirty years later...), or by his estate-sponsored successors (Gregory Benford, Greg Bear, and David Brin, among others). The only response I have to the fact that the Foundation Trilogy won a special, one-time Hugo Award in 1966 for the best all time science fiction series is, "What was the competition, aside from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings?"
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LibraryThing member arthos
The conclusion of the story. I hope it's not a spoiler to say that the big question is, Where's the second foundation? and there is no shortage of answers. It's clever, but I still find that its biggest weakness is that it relies too much on cleverness and falls short on real emotional force.
LibraryThing member bzedan
Omigod, Arkady. How a self-important, ridiculous dude like Asimov wrote such a fun fourteen year-old girl is beyond me. I wonder if I would have liked her character as much when I was a teen, or if it's the adult perspective that makes her so enjoyable. At the end is a fantastic satire of the
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"reveal", with four going in sequence, three right after another and then BAM, the fourth after a bit at the end. It's a hella snap and whether or not Asimov meant it as such a satire, it works wonderfully that way.
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LibraryThing member comfypants
Kind of disappointing. The first, shorter story (of two) is good. The second story has no likable characters; I wouldn't have guessed that characters are so important to this kind of science fiction, but they are. Also, by the time the second story starts, there's no side that you could call the
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good guys; I can't go into why without spoilers, so I'll just say that I don't think Asimov intended the audience to feel that way.
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LibraryThing member mach230
The most terrifying menace known to man threatened the hard-won victories of a new civilization
LibraryThing member br77rino
Book 3 of the trilogy that is the best science fiction of all time.
LibraryThing member DrBrewhaha
A strong "finish" to the series. The purpose of the Second Foundation is finally explored. The Seldon plan faces great challenges and may even be wrong. Asimov truly created a masterpiece.
LibraryThing member wethewatched
An intriguing conclusion to an intriguing trilogy. The explanation of what's been going on feels a little tacked on coming at the very end of the book, but it's a minor complaint. If you like sci-fi or are interested the psychology of civilizations, you really can't go wrong with these first three
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Foundation books.
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
The Foundation series (there are seven books in all though the three originals - _Foundation_, _Foundation and Empire_, and _Second Foundation_ - are the best of the series) is classic sci-fi and some of Asimov’s best. His characters are rather flat, his plots bog down in ideas and are rather
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short on action. That being said, these books can still thrill you if you’ve never read them and if you’re a sci-fi fan, you will probably love them. Asimov reminds us that history repeats itself and this a _Decline and Fall_ set in the future.
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LibraryThing member JBreedlove
A little disappointing at the end but another good easy read in the Foundation series.
LibraryThing member PDCRead
Very dated language, but the basic plot is ok
LibraryThing member kaulsu
This volume of the trilogy breaks free from the Seldon plan. Although each volume had a distinct cast of characters, this one has always seemed more interesting than the second one.

Many others have reviewed the book with a synopsis: let me just say that Arkady Darrell, in my mind, will always be a
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sharp teenager, and the Galaxy owes her a great debt! Will owe? Bah, time-tenses are easily tangled!!
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