Foundation’s Fear, by Gregory Benford, stands head and shoulders as the SF novel that has pissed me off the most.
Not because its badly written in a grammatical or workmanship sense. No, because, well…
Its not that it trespassed explictly in Asimov’s universe. I didn’t have much trouble with the idea of it, I wanted to see what Benford, Bear and Brin would do with the universe. And I had already read books by all three and liked them (especially Bear).
So I began to read Benford’s, the first of the line. I quickly began to realize three things.
1. Benford couldn’t write Hari Seldon to save his life. Far too much an action hero (even if he was young), this Seldon was not the Seldon I knew. I hated that. It wasn’t that he was written badly, he simply didn’t mesh with the Seldon of later books.
But it got worse.
2. A long subplot involving electronic personalities from Earth quickly made me angry because I realized what it truly was. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Benford was part of a shared world that played with electronic personalities called “Time Gate”
The Joan and Voltaire stuff from FF was lifted nearly verbatim from a novella in that world. Recycling of a high order.
3. At one point, Seldon and his ally, fleeing assassins, flees to a remote world where unusual experiments with mind transference are taking place with chimpanzees. As this plot continued, I realized that “I’d read THIS story” too, and went into my collection.
About 7 years ago, Benford wrote a story involving people being mind transferred into chimpanzees called “Immersion”. It’s a good story, a very good story. But it seemed he just changed some names, and took the story nearly word for word and plunged it into the book.
And thats why I threw away Foundation’s Fear when I reluctantly finished it. And I have not read Benford since. Nor have I continued the FF series or intend to do so.
There is plenty, better out there to read by Bear and Brin without stepping into this morass ever again. I know that, logically, Bear and Brin HAVE to do something new, especially with Voltaire and Joan, but I just don’t want to go there.
And I will not do so.