Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born American author and a biochemistry professor. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from Columbia University.
After working as a chemist and serving in the army, he finished his doctorate and became a professor of biochemistry at Boston University.
Asimov started writing on the side, and received high praise for his work.
Within 3 years, he was making more money from his writing than his work as a professor, but he continued with both.
He was considered to be one of the best science fiction writers of his time and is best known for the Foundation Series.
It began as a series of short stories published in a science fiction magazine between 1942 and 1951.
In 1951 the first four stories were turned into Foundation, the first book in the series, published by Gnome Press.
The rest of the stories were used to create two more books – Foundation And Empire, and Second Foundation – which complete the original trilogy.
The trilogy won the Hugo Award for ‘Best All-Time Series’ in 1966.
The fourth book in the series was not released until 1982, almost 30 years after the third book. 4 more books were released in total – 2 prequels and 2 sequels.
About The Foundation Book Series
Isaac Asimov was always a fan of science fiction and began writing short stories when he was just 11.
By the time the Foundation series was released, he had developed a writing style that was simplistic and very effective, something he is still known for today.
Readers are able to grasp very complex concepts due to the straightforward language that Asimov uses to explain them.
The Foundation series was heavily influenced by Asimov’s interest in psychohistory and politics.
When he was writing the first short stories that would later become Foundation, he said that he was influenced by ‘The History Of The Rise And Decline Of The Roman Empire’, a nonfiction book by Edward Gibbon.
The Galactic Empire takes the place of the Roman Empire in the Foundation series.
In the Foundation series, Asimov explores the evolution of society and how it can be measured by studying history to look for trends that can be tracked into the future.
One of the themes of the book is using the past to predict the future.
His writing was also guided by Michelism, a left-wing utopian political school of thought.
The Foundation series was not just a work of fiction for Asimov, but also a reflection of his personal views and beliefs.
This is why he could not rush the series, and there were some gaps between publications.
His work is still very influential in the science fiction community today.
The Foundation Series Books In Order
This is the recommended reading order for the Foundation series.
This book begins in the year 12020 in the Galactic Empire – a complex and technologically advanced civilization.
The planet of Trantor is the capital of the Galactic Empire and Emperor Cleon sits on the imperial throne, but he knows that there are many people who want to overthrow him.
Hari Seldon is a mathematician from another planet, an outworlder, who has come to Trantor to pitch an idea.
His theory of psychohistory will allow him to predict the future.
This is just what Emperor Cleon needs to stop his enemies from overthrowing him, and to maintain stability in the Galactic Empire.
Hari Seldon quickly becomes the most wanted man in the Empire.
But the power to predict the future is dangerous, and this apocalyptic phenomenon will one day be known as ‘The Foundation’.
- This book has a surprisingly uplifting ending and a romantic subplot
- The book is very long which some readers might struggle with
Eight years after the events of Prelude To Foundation, Hari Seldon has almost managed to turn his theory of psychohistory into a viable mechanism.
He now understands that there are some people who would want to use it as a weapon, people like Emperor Clean.
Hari must do everything he can to stop his life’s work from getting into the wrong hands – whoever controls psychohistory controls the fate of the whole galaxy.
Meanwhile, the Galactic Empire becomes more and more unstable, teetering on the edge of an apocalyptic collapse.
- The concepts in this book are fascinating and thought-provoking
- This book is less exciting than other books in the series
Hari Seldon is now able to use psychistory to see into the future.
The future is bleak – thirty thousand years of barbaric warfare that will destroy mankind as he knows it.
The future isn’t set in stone, yet in every possible outcome there is a dark age of ignorance and war.
Seldon presents his findings to the Galactic Empire, who accuse him of treason for predicting the downfall of their civilization.
Seldon manages to persuade the powers that be to give him the resources he needs to try and save the Empire.
He gathers together a team of the best minds in the Empire and sets up a sanctuary on one of the outer planets.
This is where they will work together to create a compendium of all human knowledge, in an attempt to save mankind. This sanctuary is called The Foundation.
- The premise of this book is original and very clever
- Some readers might find the structure of this book challenging
The Foundation is increasingly seen as a threat to the Empire, and a military attack is launched.
It is eventually called off by the emperor, not after causing some damage, and the Foundation is able to continue.
A century later, they face the threat of a new enemy – a mysterious outside force that is taking over plants.
This force is called The Mule, and is an entity unforeseen by Seldon’s psychohistory. Will The Foundation be able to overcome the threat?
- The story flowed well and the structure was easier to follow
- The book was quite long and could have trimmed down
The Foundation has been destroyed by the mutant mind powers of The Mule, and now lies in ruins.
But there were rumors of a Second Foundation, a group that possesses not only the knowledge of the original Foundation, but also the power of mind control.
The Second Foundation seems to be the only hope for the survivors of the original Foundation, but it isn’t that simple.
The original Foundation was never supposed to know about the Second Foundation, and now this knowledge not only interferes with psychohistory predictions, but also puts their lives in danger.
- The story continues to develop and an interesting and gripping way
- This book feels less original than the others as it explores a lot of established political ideas rather than new concepts
After the First Foundation is victorious in their fight against the Second Foundation, they begin to build a new empire.
However, there are still some surviving members of the Second Foundation that are not only looking to scupper the plans of the First Foundation, but are also seeking revenge.
But there is more at stake than either group realizes, and they soon find themselves in a race against time to find out the fate of the entire universe.
- This book was very well written and the style fits in with the rest of the series
- This book takes place almost 500 years after the previous one and changes direction quite drastically
Gaia is a superorganism – a sentient planet where everything is connected – every rock and every droplet of water shares a common consciousness.
Could this planet be the savior of mankind? Or is the future of the human race doomed if they make Gaia their new home.
The answer lies on the planet Earth, a mysterious planet that has been wiped from the collective memory of Gaia is nearly impossible to find.
- This book explores some interesting ideas about societal organization
- The story was not as gripping as the others and the conclusion was quite open-ended
The suggested reading order is not the same as the publication order. The books were written and published in this order:
- Foundation (1951)
- Foundation And Empire (1952)
- Second Foundation (1953)
- Foundation’s Edge (1982)
- Foundation And Earth (1986)
- Prelude To Foundation (1988)
- Forward The Foundation (1993)
Whilst the books were written in the above order, reading them in chronological order gives you the best reading experience.
If you haven’t read any of the books in the series before, starting with Prelude To Foundation is a great introduction to the universe that Asimov created.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov.
Do You Have to Read The Foundation Series In Order?
It is best to read the Foundation book series in chronological order, but some people prefer to read them in publication order. The storylines of the books are connected so you cannot read them in a random order.
Which Is The Best Book In The Foundation Series?
The books in the original trilogy are considered to be the best books in the Foundation series. This is Foundation, Foundation And Empire, and Second Foundation.