Second Foundation is, counterintuitively, the third of Isaac Asimov's space opera series Foundation, and it follows the hunt for the Second Foundation, one of two institutions set up at the time of the fall of the Galactic Empire by the great Hari Seldon to preserve the knowledge of humanity against the centuries of anarchy and infighting that were to follow. The first Foundation was dedicated to physical science - atomic power and the like. The Second is something much more terrifying: a body of psychologists who can read and control minds. And with Seldon's great Plan in tatters after the rampages of the genetic mutant the Mule, they have nothing to lose in their galactic machinations.
What follows is, essentially, 240 pages of paranoia, plots and false doors. Asimov is no character developer, and he's never heard the rule about showing not telling, but what he is good at is Space Machinations: really far-fetched political plans designed to foil and confuse reader and character alike, problems with a wide range of plausible solutions, all, apparently, voiced by various characters at various times. Second Foundation is a novel which puts the reader in the intriguing position of having the rug pulled from under their feet more or less continually. "Oh, you thought this is why the Mule failed? Well, stick this in your pipe and smoke it."
Again and again.
One thing, though: I thought Asimov could have done more with Trantor, the planet-city in ruins, a dystopia on a literally global scale. It could have been awesome, like the dead city in The Matrix. But no. Having had our plucky fourteen-year-old heroine Arcadia flee halfway across the Galaxy to a place she's been banging on about for fifty pages, Asimov lets her visit the city once, in a flashback, and run away again.
I would not on any account wish to read Asimov for any extended period of time, but once in a blue moon it's nice to relax into a world where nothing matters but the ideas, and some very intriguing ones at that. But if you're just starting out with him, I do feel that the robot stories (any of the robot stories) would be infinitely better.