Kin Karad works for the Company. Her job is to oversee the creation of planets. Some of the workers like to play jokes on future inhabitants. The one she has discovered this time is a plesiosaur in the wrong stratum holding a placard reading “End Nuclear Testing Now”. While she is impressed with the inventiveness of the culprit, Kin is getting tired of her life. It has been a long one.
Then she meets a mysterious person who invites her on a journey. Kin Karad decides to go and when she gets to the spaceship she discovers that she is alone, but will be picking up two companions – a kung called Marco Farfarer, and Silver the Shandi. They are told that they will be going to a flat world.
The spaceship takes off and off they go on their adventure.
Strata precedes Pratchett’s Discworld series, but we clearly see how the foundations are laid for the later series. Kin Karad and her fellow explorers are fun characters with clearly defined personalities. Plays on words and concepts are obvious from the first pages. Pratchett was a pretty good author even back in his early days.
The Foundation series continues on from the Elijah Bailey series. The reason I call it a continuation of the series becomes apparent as one reads the books (too much of a spoiler to tell). If you go to Wikipedia, they will tell all. Having said that, their page carries quite an excellent description of the books along with analysis and links. For another in-depth analysis of Asimov’s work go to Wimmer & Wilkins’ blog. Asimov’s home page contains more general information about his life’s work.
Isaac Asimov brought fresh air into science fiction when he arrived on the scene in the 40’s. He wasn’t afraid of taking a hard look at the possible future of mankind based on what he knew of the day’s theories on sociology and psychology. The Foundation series is considered one of the most important contributions to the field of science fiction, a well-deserved opinion.
PRELUDE TO FOUNDATION (1988) AND FORWARD THE FOUNDATION (1993)
The Foundation series was started in the 1940’s, but for easier reading you should start with Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. In Prelude we meet Hari Sheldon, the inventor of psychohistory. Hari’s goal was to be able to predict the general future of humanity, and during a conference he presents his fledgling theory to fellow scientists on the planet Trantor. Unfortunately the Empiror finds Hari’s theories a threat and begin to persecute him. This makes it necessary for Hari to flee, and his flight takes him around Trantor. In Forward the story of how Hari develops his theory continues. Sadly for Hari, the people he loves die off (naturally and unnaturally). Hari refuses to give up and finally develops what ends up being called the Seldon Plan, a way to save the future of humankind.
FOUNDATION (1951) / FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE (1952) / AND SECOND FOUNDATION (1953)
After this introduction to the future Galactic Empire, The Foundation Trilogy with the books Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation, follow. These are Asimov’s first installments in the Foundation history. When you read these books, please keep in mind that the series was written well before Wikipedia or the internet came into existence. As such, they seem a bit dated. Some of the theory can be tedious, but the adventures and people we meet are quite fun. The titles are a dead give-away, so we know well ahead of time that the Foundation is bound to survive. But we know nothing about the road taken.
In Foundation and Empire the leaders of the Foundation has become corrupt. The internal strife that arises from that makes the organisation susceptible to “The Mule”. The Mule advances, conquering planet after planet, making the Empire deviate from Seldon’s plan. The Foundation does not have it in them to win over the Mule, and desperately some of the members begin seeking a rumoured Second Foundation.
The title Second Foundation kind of gives it away. In this novel we are going to discover the rumoured savior of the Empire while enjoying adventure, science and social interaction. The only way to kill the Mule is by allowing members of the Foundation to find members of the Second Foundation. But this also reveals the fact that there is a Second Foundation and that its nature is somewhat different to the First one’s. Herein lies the conflict.
FOUNDATION’S EDGE (1982) AND FOUNDATION AND EARTH (1986)
And so we come to the two final books in the Foundation series: Foundation’s Edge and Foundation and Earth. We meet Golan Trevize as main protagonist in both books. He is convinced the Second Foundation has survived the attempt to exterminate its members, and goes looking for them. His search brings him to many planets and finally to the ancient planets (no longer on any star-chart) of Solaria, Aurora and Melpomenia. Each journey brings Trevize closer to a conclusion that may or may not satisfy the reader. I felt ambiguous, and that seems to be the intent of the author.
1966 – Best All-time Novel Series Hugo Award for the Foundation series
1983 – Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation’s Edge
1983 – Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Foundation’s Edge
1996 – A 1946 Retro-Hugo for Best Novel of 1945 was given at the 1996 WorldCon to “The Mule“, the 7th Foundation story, published in Astounding Science Fiction