A little while back, my friend Ruth talked about creating a summer reading list to help get her caught up on some science fiction that she had never read. I was a little surprised when reading her post to learn that one of the series she hadn’t completed was Foundation. I had also recently gotten in a while conversation about Foundation and the Robot series which was linked with Foundation, with another friend who is an Asimov fan, and I was remembering how fabulous those books are and decided that I should try to entice you all to give this series of books a try. It’s a great choice for summer reading, because you need a lot of time, but it’s worth it!
So, here is your introduction to my favorite series of Issac Asimov books.
The books I’m going to talk about actually come from two separate series, but were eventually connected. I’m going to suggest that you read them, not in the order that they were written, but in sequential order of the timelines of the book. This is how my father had me read them, and I believe they flow the best this way. It also similar to the order suggested by Asimov himself, but I did not include the Robot short stories or the Empire Series as they were not how I did it. However, if you want four more books on top of my eleven, sure, go for it! Both of these sequences start with some of the easier reading, and work into the depths of Foundation, which can be dense and heavy.
Asimov wrote a number of different robot books and short stories, but the Robot novels are my favorites. The short stories are good for illustrating principles, but the novels allow you to really get to know the characters over the long term. The stories, as per Asimov’s usual, were based on the Three Rules of Robotics and the issues associated with the rules. The three novels are The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn.
All three follow Elijah Baley and the robot R. Daneel Olivaw. They act as detectives solving crimes related to robots. Although these books weren’t originally entangled with the Foundation series, the next book, Robots and Empire, retcons a connection by bringing R. Daneel Olivaw into the Empire/Foundation world.
The next two novels are prequels but written long after the original Foundation trilogy. They were actually some of the last books Asimov wrote. They set up what became the basis for everything that occurs in the Foundation trilogy: psychohistory. The first is Prelude to Foundation and the second is Forward the Foundation.
The three books in the trilogy are Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. These are some of the classic books of science fiction history. They continue upon the theories of psychohistory and cover a large span of galactic history as recorded in the Encyclopedia Galactica. By the way, if you are or have ever been a fan of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the “Guide” is a parody of the Encyclopedia Galactica, and it’s even funnier when you look at it that way! Since they cover a lot of time, at the beginning there appears to be a lot of jumping around and character switching, but Asimov does a great job of holding it all together and making it count later, so don’t get thrown off too much by that! As with most good science fiction, there is a lot of wonderful commentary on human society that continues to hold true today.
The sequels were written decades after the original trilogy, and they are Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth. Between the two of these, Asimov ties up the loose ends, but leaves an open train of thought in a new direction, which he never really explored.
So, in case you were bored this summer, I’ve just given you 11 books of summer reading. If you ever get seriously lost in the Foundation Universe, go over to the Foundation Wiki for tips. Now, start reading!