The Mule by Isaac Asimov
Read July 11, 2010 – July 13, 2010
Premise: The Foundation (a cultural organization that essentially rules half the Universe) is threatened by a general of amazing effectiveness and unknown mutant abilities that make it virtually impossible to win against him.
Verdict: First off, this is a Retro Hugo Award—the rules for them are complicated but they are rarely awarded anymore because they say the lens of time distorts the perception of what was considered good when the books were released. Second it was published as a novella in a sci-fi magazine in 1946 when sci-fi magazines were the epitome of popular literature. Third, if you are looking for it now, it is the second book in Foundation and Empire which is itself the second novel in the Foundation Trilogy. The Foundation Trilogy was awarded a special Hugo in 1966 for Best All-Time Series. Dispensing with the preliminaries, read these novels. The first female of any significance appears in The Mule and if you’re expecting you’re typical terrible 1940’s wimp who should be put to death for being such a terrible person you are wrong. Not only is the female character strong, all the characters are strong, you grow attached to them even though many of the stories in the Trilogy don’t last for long. You also start to realize that every sci-fi novel ever written after these books has stolen something from them. It’s sort of a backwards “ahha!” since I’ve read so many other works before these. And while I haven’t read the final novel in the trilogy yet I can say that I adore these books.
Don’t just pick this up and try to read it, read all the stuff that’s supposed to come before it first. Then read all the stuff that comes after it too.