It closed almost as strong as it opened, though this bears in mind the very opening, in the science lab in Chicago, an almost throw-away scene where Something Bad Happens that sets up the rest of the story, but is never explained, or, indeed, even referred to again. That was a neat chapter, and I wish the rest of the book had been more like it.
The close was much stronger than the beginning of the story with the tailor who could just as easily been sliced in two himself rather than the rag doll. By the end of the novel one thing after another was happening. Reasonable-sounding things, from a narrative point of view, yet from the point of view of the characters, totally unreasonable. It’s not exactly that nobody was listening to each other, as nobody could quite believe that people on the other side of the issue were saying the things they were saying.
And then, after all the talk-talk, lectures, arguments (as opposed to disputes), there were scenes of torture, interpersonal vengance with violence, and a covert, unauthorised, hypnotically compelled military mission with the effect of resolving the Problem while leaving the Plot untouched. And the resolution came on quickly, in the context of the book. Of course, it had to come on quickly since there was this deadline looming. The Villian had only to keep people talking until the deadline passed. Or so he thought, never reckoning on the possibility that the Mind Reader could actually Read Minds, despite the fact that he had, himself!, been under pretty severe Mind Control.
But it all seemed so reasonable during the reading. Very Michael Crichton-y. So, am I glad I read it? Of course I’m glad I read it. It’s one of Those Books… actually, it’s just a part of one of Those Books. I’ll have to read the entire Foundation/Empire/Robot saga to really have read it. Kind of like the remaining three Lensmen books or the Known Space books. I may not be overly impressed with any given part, but I look forward to being able to look back on it, to see its over all form. I’ll judge then if it was actually time well-spent.