Foundation and Earth

I really like how Asimov wraps up the extended Foundation series. Specifically, I’d previously complained while reading Pebble in the Sky that it was hard to believe that everyone simply forgets that they originated on Earth — this book and Foundation’s Edge go a long way to resolving that annoyance for me. Its also good to find out what happened to Aurora and Solaria finally — especially given the Solaria mystery has been bothering me since Robots and Empire.

Speaking just about this book so a moment, I do find the use of sex as a plot development method quite odd. There are three examples that bother me — when Bliss is slipped through interstellar customs with the explanation that she’s just a whore and therefore not important enough to make an issue of; the second is when Trevize basically shags his way out of an awkward situation, despite the other protagonist being quite hostile initially; and finally where he bonks someone on a rural world. I find all three of those incidents a little out of place with the rest of the book, and in fact the rest of the series. Other authors use those kinds of plot elements, but they seem out of place in Asimov’s work.

Overall, I loved this book and it was a good conclusion to the series.

[isbn: 0586071105]

Foundation’s Edge

I’m back to reading Foundation Series books actually written by Isaac Asimov. This one is the fourth in the Foundation Series if you count them in the order they were written, but is the second last in chronological terms. Its set 500 years after the failure of the first galactic empire, and follows the first Foundation’s attempt to discover if the second Foundation still exists. Well, its a bit more complicated than that, but I don’t want to ruin it for you.

As an aside, the user interface described for the ship’s computer is really cool. Its a bit like augmented reality, mixed with gesture control, mixed with a direct interface into the brain. I’m not saying I want one in my house, but its cool that a book written in 1983 still has a user interface description which isn’t dated, and still seems plausible.

This book has minor inconsistencies with the story presented in the second foundation trilogy (Foundation’s Fear, Foundation and Chaos and Foundation’s Triumph), but I see that more as a failure in those followup authors than in this book. In fact, I’ve already complained about how untrue to Asimov’s vision some of those books are elsewhere.

This is a good read, and I enjoyed it greatly.

[isbn: 0586058397;0345308980]
[award: winner hugo 1983; nominee nebula 1982]

Foundation’s Triumph

This book is pretty good. I’d say its the best of the three Second Foundation Trilogy books in fact. Unfortunately, you need to read the other two in order for this one to make any sense, which is a shame because the first one sucked, and the second one was ok.

A lot of loose ends get cleaned up in this book. Why did Earth get abandoned? Why did everyone forget their history? Why is Trantor built much like the cities in the Naked Sun? Why are there all those habitable worlds for the galactic empire to reside on? It seems odd that there would be 25 million habitable worlds out there. There are other examples as well, but I wont bore you with them all.

Another good bit of this book is the time line of all Asimov Foundation stories at the back of the book. I am sure it would have been useful to know about that earlier.

[isbn: 0061056391]

Foundation and Chaos

This is the second book in the second Foundation trilogy, following on from Foundation’s Fear, which I didn’t enjoy. This book on the other hand is quite good. Its not the best book I’ve read recently, but its faithful to the universe that Asimov built, as well as resolving all the silly plot elements that made Foundation’s Fear such a bad book. It also fills in some of the gaps between the end of Asimov’s robot stories and the Foundation stories, which is good.

[isbn: 0061056405]

Foundation’s Fear

This book is a solid zero stars in my mind. I got to page 372, but simply couldn’t wade through the chore any longer. The plot meanders, and its not clear to me where the story is going. Worse still, basically nothing has happened yet. I am a little surprised, given the generally positive LibraryThing reviews. I should have read the Amazon reviews instead. Some examples:

Normally, I do a lot of my reading on the train (BART for those of you familiar with San Francisco), getting to and from work. An engrossing book keeps me awake and I read it relatively quickly. “Foundation’s Fear”, especially the first half of it, set a record for putting me to sleep. There were days in when I only managed to read a couple of pages. A paragraph or two and I’d be out, even before the train started moving. As others here have pointed out, there is a lot of boring dialogue and description and much of it focuses around the Voltaire and Joan of Arc artificial entities. Hundreds of pages of philosophical noodling and descriptions of imaginary scenes conjured up in cyberspace become numbing.

And another:

This book is not good, not because it’s not Asimov but because it’s simply not good. I had the luxury of reading it within the context of the other two “new” books and while that helps in hindsight, it doesn’t while you’re slogging through Benford’s weighty prose.

Don’t expect Asimov but then the reader shouldn’t. As Bear and to a lesser extent Brin show, authors can bring a fresh perspective on the topic and do it fairly well. Benford never seems to make up his mind which of his myriad little sub plots will be the main plot and thus, nothing really happens that expands our understanding of the Foundation Galaxy. Moreover, instead of fleshing out some of Asimov’s admittedly skimpy ideas in the Foundation galaxy or introducing new themes that build upon previous concepts, instead, we take a quantum leap into a muddled unknown with concepts (aliens and tiktoks being the two most egregious examples) that clearly don’t belong in the Foundation setting.

This book differs from Asimov’s view of the Foundation universe in important ways:

  • This book is much more explicit about Dors’ nature than Asimov ever was. There was some element of doubt in Forward the Foundation right up until Dors’ death. That is not the case with this book.
  • This book reworks Hari’s entry into the First Minister position, which I found annoying. Especially because the discussion around that entry is slow, and lacks action. Basically the new version was kinda boring.
  • Worm holes are a major part of the economic makeup of the galactic empire in this book, but somehow Asimov never mentioned them in his books.
  • This book dwells on computers, robots, artificial intelligence, and aliens — all things Asimov left out of his books (except for robots of course). Its not like Asimov was unaware of these things, he just didn’t use them in this universe.
  • This book is really long (600 pages), but nothing much seems to actually happen in the first several hundred. The Sims sequence is the first really interesting part of the book, and even that drags on into long boring descriptions of polygons waving in the virtual wind.

[isbn: 0061056383]

Second Foundation

I am starting to think that there is something missing in the Foundation trilogy. Specifically, there isn’t much action. Most of it is just people talking at each other — with pages and pages of dialog. This makes these three books much harder to read (and therefore less compelling) than those elsewhere in the extended Foundation Series.

I did enjoy this book, I just feel that I could have done with some more action to make it less hard work.

[isbn: 0345336291;0345309014]

Foundation and Empire

This is the second book in the original foundation trilogy, which I am reading as part of the the extended Foundation series that I am working my way slowly though. This book contains two stories — both of them Seldon crises, although one of them unpredicted by Hari. As Hari had always said in the series — his techniques can only predict broad social trends, and the not the work on individuals. What happens if a single person who could not be predicted appears? This story covers that scenario.

I found this book harder to read than the previous one, but that might have been because I’ve had a pretty distracted week. Once I actually sat down to read without too many interruptions, I enjoyed it.

The comments from others on LibraryThing are fair though — the character names are odd, and the writing does feel a little awkward.

[isbn: 0553293370]
[award: winner hugo 1946]

(LibraryThing for some reason gets the ISBN mapping for this book wrong. The above link’s ISBN is right, but this link goes to the right place).


Foundation is an interesting book, as its quite old and was originally written as a series of short stories (as much early science fiction was). Because I am reading the books of the extended Foundation series in the order that Asimov recommended towards the end of his life, I have read the two prequels to Foundation (Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation) before Foundation itself. This means that the time line is a little inconsistent, specifically about how the Foundation project ends up on Terminus (Was it lobbying or exile? Did Hari go or not?). That’s not too bad though, and the book is very good.

[isbn: 0586010807]

Forward the Foundation

This is a Foundation prequel, coming after Prelude to Foundation and before Foundation. The book is almost a series of short stories or novelettes — there are several year gaps between these stories. That was a shame in a sense, because each of these separate stories has its won startup cost — the time it takes me to get into what is happening. For some reason I don’t find that as much of a problem with collections of short stories, possibly because I’m expecting it more. This technique meant Asimov could cover a lot of ground, but I found it jarring over all.

I guess I’d say this book was ok, but not one of Asimov’s best.

[isbn: 0553565079]

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series

I’m getting really into reading second hand science fiction from the
1950s onwards. I read a few (but nowhere near all) of the Foundation
series as a child, and I remember liking them a lot. Stolen from Wikipedia
as well as other online sources, here is a list of the books in The
Foundation series in Asimov’s suggested reading order:

Year Title Notes
1950 I,
short stories
. First collection,
which were all included in The Complete Robot, though it also contains
binding text (Mind and Iron), no longer in The Complete Robot.
1964 The
Rest of the Robots
short stories
. This collection
isn’t recommended, as the stories appear in The
Complete Robot
as well.
1982 The
Complete Robot
short stories
. Collection of
Asimov stories written between 1940 and 1976.
1986 Robot
short stories
. Anthologized in a
book with the same title.
1990 Robot
short stories
. Anthologized in a
book with the same title. This
collection contains Mirror Image, which is referenced in The Robots Of
Dawn and occurs after The Naked Sun
1992 The Positronic Man Robot novel based on
Asimov’s short story The Bicentennial Man, co-written by Robert
1954 The
Caves of Steel
Robot novel.
1957 The
Naked Sun
Robot novel.
1983 The
Robots of Dawn
Robot novel.
1985 Robots
and Empire
Robot novel.
1993 Isaac
Asimov’s Caliban
Caliban trilogy by Roger
MacBride Allen. These three books were quite hard to get, as they’re no
longer for sale.
1994 Isaac
Asimov’s Inferno
Caliban trilogy by Roger
MacBride Allen. These three books were quite hard to get, as they’re no
longer for sale.
1996 Isaac
Asimov’s Utopia
Caliban trilogy by Roger
MacBride Allen. These three books were quite hard to get, as they’re no
longer for sale.
1951 The
Stars, Like Dust
Galactic Empire series.
1952 The
Currents of Space
Galactic Empire series.
1950 Pebble
in the Sky
Galactic Empire series.
1988 Prelude
to Foundation
Foundation novel.
1993 Forward
the Foundation
Foundation novel.
Finished by Asimov’s wife after his death from unfinished work.
Combines a series of short stories: “Forward the Foundation”, became
Part I, “Eto Demerzel”. “Cleon the Emperor” became Part II, “Cleon I”,
and “The Consort” became Part III, “Dors Venabili”. Also includes
“Wanda Seldon” and “Epilogue”.
1951 Foundation Foundation trilogy.
1952 Foundation
and Empire
Foundation trilogy.
1953 Second
Foundation trilogy.
1997 Foundation’s
Second Foundation
trilogy by Gregory Benford. The general concensus seems to be that this
book isn’t very good, but the other two are worth reading. Perhaps skip
this one (although the other two will make less sense unless you read a
plot synopsis of this book).
1998 Foundation
and Chaos
Second Foundation
trilogy by Greg Bear.
1999 Foundation’s
Second Foundation
trilogy by David Brin.
1982 Foundation’s
Final chronological
Foundation books.
1986 Foundation
and Earth
Final chronological
Foundation books.

Next step, read them.

amazon list is also useful
as it
has a guide to the short story books and how they overlap, as well as a
bunch more robot books written by other authors.

this Foundation
Series timeline
is useful too.

this page
contains a useful list mapping short stories to later Foundation books