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I've been meaning to read the Foundation series but haven't quite been able to figure out which book to read first. Does anyone know the correct chronological order of the books in the series? Are there any drawbacks to reading the Foundation series in the chronological order (possible Star Wars like spoilers)?

  • I first read the series in true chronological order and it in no way diminished my enjoyment or love of the series. – Brenton Taylor Jan 12 '11 at 14:15
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The chronological order is:

  • Prelude to Foundation
  • Forward the Foundation
  • Foundation
  • Foundation and Empire
  • Second Foundation
  • Foundation's Edge
  • Foundation and Earth

The publication order is:

  • 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)

I don't think there are spoilers if you read it in chronological order. However, I would recommend reading the Robot Series of Asimov first.

  • 5
    I also suggest you to read "Caves of Steel", "Naked Sun" and "Robots and Empire" before you start reading the empire series. This will give a nostalgic feeling when you end the series... – Shahriar Jan 11 '11 at 22:01
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    @Shahriar, those books are exactly what the Robot Series aacheve mentioned consists of :-) – Massimo Jan 11 '11 at 22:37
  • Asimov wrote a lot of robot stories ("Victory Unintentional" is one of my favourites). I didn't pick up that @aacheve meant "Caves of Steel" + sequels until it was pointed out - thanks for doing so. – Bevan Jan 15 '11 at 0:52
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    Then what's the recommended reading order of the Robot Series? ;-) – Thomas Jun 16 '11 at 13:59
8

This is the chronological order of the main 7 books:

  1. Prelude to Foundation
  2. Forward the Foundation
  3. Foundation
  4. Foundation and Empire
  5. Second Foundation
  6. Foundation's Edge
  7. Foundation and Earth

but do yourself a favor and read them in publication order

  1. Foundation
  2. Foundation and Empire
  3. Second Foundation
  4. Foundation's Edge
  5. Foundation and Earth
  6. Prelude to Foundation
  7. Forward the Foundation

Spoiler:

now, the Foundation series is really the same as the Empire and Robot series including Caves of Steel and even some other books out there, like "The End of Eternity", but the continuity is not that big of a deal there.

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I read the in the Foundation series in the chronological order and I would not recommend this order for 2 reason.

  1. There is some small thing, I would not call all of them spoiler, I could call them big clues, but some of them are so big that the guess is almost oblivious. I read them about 5 year ago, but still have a bad taste in the mouth of some punch that have been cut down by those clues.

  2. The quality of the prequels (Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation) is significantly lower the the main series. It just a motivation thing, but I was wondering why this series was so praised before I reach the Foundation book (the 1951 one).

As it's said here it's better to read the Robot Series of Asimov because there is genuine spoilers of them in the Foundation series.

3

This is the order they come in.

  • I, Robot
  • The 3 Elijah Bailey novels
  • Robots and Empire
  • The 3 Empire novels
  • The 2 Hari Seldon prequels
  • The Original Trilogy
  • And the two postludes.

This is the order I read them

  • The Original Trilogy
  • And the two postludes.
  • The 2 Hari Seldon prequels
  • The 3 Elijah Bailey novels
  • I, Robot
  • The 3 Empire novels
  • Robots and Empire

The only thing I'd suggest is reading Caves of Steel earlier, it's important that you at least know who R. Daneel is.

But reading Robots and Empire last left an awesome impression on my mind, I don't remember why, but it seemed like the most satisfying conclusion possible.

2

My own advice would be to read "Foundation", "Foundation and Empire" and "Second Foundation", in that order, and then stop. The newer ones are nothing like as good.

If you still want more, then Donald Kingsbury's "Psychohistorical Crisis" is better than any of the "official" ones.

  • I agree, the first three books are mostly excellent, the latter present an exhaustion of ideas. – scope_creep Jan 17 '11 at 20:05
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It's also worth noting that there was a trilogy of volumes written as authorized sequels to Foundation by Greg Bear, Gregory Benford and David Brin.

Benford's contribution, Foundation's Fear https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation%27s_Fear takes place prior to the Foundation Trilogy and is, to my taste, 'way too far out of the canon set by the Asimov stories to be taken seriously. (Because Benford is a fine writer, it's worth reading, but think of it as Foundation fan fiction, not canon.)

The second book, Foundation and Chaos https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_and_Chaos, is by Greg Bear and is a sequel to the Benford book, but feels to me to be a bit more in the Asimov spirit. Again, Bear is a fine writer and worth reading.

The third volume, Foundation's Triumph https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation%27s_Triumph, by David Brin is IMO quite good and brings this trilogy almost back to canon. It is set after Foundation and Earth and does a good job of resolving the three-way battle that had been shaping up between the Robots, the Foundation(s), and Gaia/Galaxia.

I'd also like to second the praise for Donald Kingsbury's Pyschohistorical Crisis https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistorical_Crisis. It is a brilliant homage to Foundation, as well as a critique of it, but was not authorized and is consequently set in a not-quite-the-same-universe. It's best enjoyed after reading Asimov.

But of all the sequels, I'd recommend Orson Scott Card's story "The Originist" from Foundation's Friends which reads like pure Asimov in spirit, but better written than anything Ike ever did himself.

I recommend reading all of these after the Asimov-written books. "The Orginist" fills in a beautiful bit of detail, but doesn't really play a role in the greater story, while the Benford/Bear/Brin trilogy is sufficiently skew to the original books that it would be just confusing to read them in their chronological position. They should be read in order afterwards.

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There is nothing to stop one from reading it in multiple sequences. I myself read the original Foundation Trilogy first, then went on to the prequels and the Robot stories, in no particular order, interspersed with other Asimov stories. I am now reading them again in the "chronological order of future history", after a span of several years (so I remember parts of the stories but not all). And although Nemesis is not considered part of the Foundation universe, I definitely see it being a pre-cursor to the prequels, in terms of general concepts (hyperspatial travel for example).

  • 1
    You say there is nothing to stop you, but you don't say how or if it affects the reading. – The Fallen Sep 30 '12 at 4:08

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