Saturday, 7 August 2004

Foundation of Robots

Some time back, I spent almost two hours trying to explain the continuity of Isaac Asimov's books to a friend, especially the Foundation and robot books. You see, Asimov's Foundation and robot books may have started out as completely different entities, but somehow, they got meshed together as through the years, Asimov expanded his vision to incorporate robots into the Foundation series, even though the original Foundation trilogy did not mention robots at all.

As a result, the books can get rather confusing and some of the plot twists in latter books may be lost on some readers who may have left out some earlier books of his.

Having read all the Foundation books (yes, including those three rip-offs by the so-called 'Killer B's'), as well as the robot books, I attempted to construct a sequence that found maximizes the storyline and the twist in the latter books.

This is what I came up with:
  1. First things first - DON'T READ THE PRELUDES FIRST. Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation relate events that happen BEFORE the first Foundation book, and give away a good many spoilers to the latter books. Also, don't read the 'fourth' robot novel - Robots and Empire, for the same reason.
  2. Instead, start off with reading I, Robot first, as it gives you a nice history of robot-dom. Robot Visions is also recommended, as it includes some stories that are not included in the former.
  3. Next, move on to the Elijah Bailey books - Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and Robots of Dawn, which introduces Daneel R. Olivaw (and another robot, Giskard, who plays a major role later). All three are SF-murder mysteries where the 3 Laws of Robotics play a major role.
  4. Now that you've completed your Asimov-ian robot education, it's time to move on to the Foundation. Since Asimov first conceived of the concept in the original trilogy - Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation; start with these first, not the preludes.
  5. After finishing the trilogy, start on the subsequent books in the Foundation series (which continue in the same timeline as the original Foundation trilogy), namely Foundation's Edge, and then finally Foundation and Earth, which will take you one full cycle back to where it all started, and make for one heck of a satisfying climax.
  6. NOW, you can read the preludes without worrying about any spoilers. Start with Robots and Empire (which is set before Foundation timelines), and then Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation.
  7. After that, if you're a sucker for punishment and don't mind Foundation books NOT written by the maestro himself, then go read the Second Foundation Trilogy by the so-called 'Killer B's'- Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and David Brin - and comprises Foundation's Fear, Foundation and Chaos and (thankfully) last, Foundation's Triumph. IMHO, this 'Second Foundation trilogy' was confusing, boring and utterly unnecessary. Read it at your own peril, but make sure you've already read Asimov's books first.

So there you have it. A nice sequence spanning 13 books (16 if you include the Killer B farce), which not only follows a chronological timeline, but also maximises the impact of the story and plot twists.

Do bear in mind that this is merely a suggestion, and ultimately, it is up to you to determine which book you want to read first or last. After all, one man's Foundation may be another man's Empire...

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