The second of Asimov’s Hari Seldon novels switches from Hari Seldon as a bewildered young man to watching him age and becoming the Great Hari Seldon, often reluctantly. Forward the Foundation begins ten years after the events of Prelude to Foundation. Psychohistory is now a pet project for the Galactic Empire. Seldon is married to Dors Venabili, has adopted Rache, and is assisted by the brilliant and self-educated Yugo Amaryl. Life is good for Seldon, except for a populist movement that threatens to topple his patron, First Minister Eto Demerzel (really the robot R. Daneel Olivaw.) It succeeds, but not before Seldon exposes the leader as a fraud. Demerzel is finished and convinces Emperor Cleon II to name Seldon his successor. And so now Seldon has the Emperor as his patron. Eventually, Seldon runs afoul of the movement’s new leader, who attempts to assassinate him. Instead, Cleon is killed, and Seldon resigns to return to his role as a professor. Over the next twenty years of his life, Seldon loses those close to him. Dors and Yugo die. Rache and his wife are killed in a rebellion predicted by psychohistory. Seldon himself goes from dodging a dimwitted junta leader to getting snarled in imperial bureaucracy to begging for money to finish his work. It ends with with the Second Foundation secretly started in a location even Seldon does not know about.
Each of the stories take place ten years after the previous. Age is a major theme of the book. Seldon feels old at forty, really old at fifty, and is really livid about sixty. Throughout the story, Seldon is misunderstood as a fortune-teller and a doomsday prophet. Yet Olivaw’s warning that the empire is rapidly declining becomes apparent with each passing year. And the decline of the empire is undeniable by the end of the book. Seldon is mugged several times not by hired thugs but by street toughs who resent Seldon’s predictions of doom coming true.
The book brings the series full circle with Seldon narrating a journal entry about recording the holograms that appear throughout the rest of the series, to be opened at each Seldon Crisis. Asimov has tied up the series in a neat bow.