Foundation Series Review

If you’re a fan of science-fiction you might have heard of Isaac Asimov. He’s more prolifically known for the Robot Series, which consists of countless short stories about the Three Laws of Robotics and its consequences. But he wrote another series called The Foundation Series.

The basis of the Foundation Series is the discoveries of Hari Seldon who develops psycho-history, the mathematics of the prediction of human society as a whole and his prediction of the downfall of The Empire, a galaxy wide organization and his efforts on creating The Second Empire.

The book series consists of 7 books.

  • Foundation
  • Foundation and Empire
  • Second Foundation
  • Foundation’s Edge
  • Foundation and Earth
  • Prelude to Foundation
  • Forward to Foundation

Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation

The first three books are the first three written by Asimov and consist mostly of short stories of the efforts and intriguing ideas of Psycho-History. This is where Asimov shines, he takes a concept or a series of rules and he exposes and expresses all the strange ways that it could be exploited, misinterpreted, and formed. The Foundation is formed as a project for an encyclopedia but is truly meant to be the start of a new empire. Throughout the series the people of the Foundation face threats, rogue barbaric worlds, conquerors and they deal with them through multiple means, religious, trade, and event military might.  I would highly recommend Foundation and Foundation & Empire as any sci-fi and especially history person would read.

Second Foundation is where things get a little strange as it goes further into the Second Foundation, which consists of telepaths who are trying to ensure the right path of the Seldon Plan to the Second Empire. The books are good but I feel the mental trickery of the entire series is lacking, I did enjoy the books as a long who-dun-it type of series though.

Foundations’ Edge & Foundation and Earth
Ok, this is where psycho-history goes away and it becomes about characters. I love the series for the characters and it’s exploration into the inner workings of the Second Foundation, I even enjoy the series but the core concept the book and the plot is based on is… lacking. I feel it’s too unreasonable and too unexplainable. Even the later book’s concepts are weak.

I think the reason for this lacking work is because

  1. This is Asimov’s longest work, he mostly wrote short stories and this book is almost three times as long as any previous book
  2. He was forced to write it at the behest of his publishers
  3. He wrote it almost 30 years AFTER the foundation trilogy
I didn’t even waste my time reading Foundation and Earth as it was following the same line and I honestly didn’t care for the character after the reveal of their origins and reasoning in the end. Nothing felt that interesting in their adventures.
Prelude to Foundation & Forward the Foundation
After the success of Foundation and Earth, Asimov decided to write up prequels more about Hari Seldon’s life.
Prelude is written basically as a small adventure story which consists of maybe 3-4 short stories about the same character. They read very much the same and honestly I was plodding along the entire series. 
Forward the Foundation gets worse, instead of being an interesting small short stories it becomes more about the character Hari Seldon getting old and it seems to focus entirely on his legacy and his age rather than any true plot or reason.
Prelude and Forward were written primarily as Asimov’s LAST books and I believe he wrote them in order to draw parallels between his life and this character. His complaints about age, legacy, and contributions to science are truly the ones that matter all make sense from someone who is dying and is trying to draw parallels. I believe if you want a bit of insight into Asimov in his old age you can read Forward the Foundation.
So quick summary, read the Foundation Trilogy and skip the rest unless you want a bit of insight into Asimov’s later life with Forward the Foundation.