Isaac Asimov began his Foundation Series at the age of twenty-one, not realizing that it would one day be considered a cornerstone of science fiction. During his legendary career, Asimov penned over 470 books on subjects ranging from science to Shakespeare to history, though he was most loved for his award-winning science fiction sagas, which include the Robot, Empire, and Foundation series. Named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Asimov entertained and educated readers of all ages for close to five decades. He died, at the age of seventy-two, in April 1992.
Isaac Asimov began his Foundation Series at the age of twenty-one,
not realizing that it would one day be considered a cornerstone of
science fiction. During his legendary career, Asimov penned over
470 books on subjects ranging from science to Shakespeare to
history, though he was most loved for his award-winning science
fiction sagas, which include the Robot, Empire, and Foundation
series. Named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by the Science
Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Asimov entertained and
educated readers of all ages for close to five decades. He died, at
the age of seventy-two, in April 1992.
1. Do Asimov's now-famous Three Laws of Robotics mirror
humanity's ethics code in any way? Whose orders are human beings
required to obey? Do our definitions of "harm" ever lead to the
same confounding dilemmas experienced in I,
2. Why was Gloria's mother unable to accept Robbie as an
excellent nursemaid? Was Robbie premonitory on Asimov's part-a
prediction that children in the twenty-first century might form
intense emotional attachments to electronics?
3. Cutie (QT) questions his origins and finds it impossible to
believe that a human created him. In what ways did Powell and
Donovan reinforce this belief?
4. Does the case of Stephen Byerley indicate that robots might
make better politicians? Would this only hold true if, as the novel
envisions, nations dissolve into massive world regions?
5. What is the ultimate commodity produced by U.S. Robot &
Mechanical Men, Inc.? Does our global workforce follow this model
in any way? Were humor and compassion inevitable traits in the
robots? Do these traits interfere with productivity in the world of
6. In the book's closing lines, Dr. Susan Calvin tells the
narrator, "You will see what comes next," as robots stand between
mankind and destruction. How did her career lead up to such a
7. I, Robot has been turned into a major motion
picture starring Will Smith. How does the movie compare with your
book-reading experience? What do you think of the adjustments made
and liberties taken when converting this collection of stories to
one seamless film adaptation?
8. Foundation opens with the perspective of
Gaal Dornick, "a country boy who had never seen Trantor before."
What is the effect of opening the novel with Gaal's observations?
Why did Hari Seldon extend such an invitation to Gaal?
9. In the trial portrayed in chapter 6, the Commission's
Advocate repeatedly rejects Hari's deductions regarding the future.
What has made Hari a target for exile? Why are his
projections-supported by seemingly irrefutable logic and
mathematics-so easily dismissed by his accusers?
10. Part 3 of Foundation begins with an entry
from the Encyclopedia Galactica that reads, "Undoubtedly
the most interesting aspect of the history of the four Kingdoms
involves the strange society forced temporarily upon it during the
administration of Salvor Hardin." In what ways does Hardin
distinguish himself from the other rulers described in the novel?
What conditions fostered his rise to power?
11. The Foundation is intended in some ways as a kind of
religious center. What are its doctrines? Can a religion of science
12. Discuss the novel's references to energy-in this case,
nuclear power-in relation to political and economic supremacy. What
other forces drive the novel's hierarchies of dominance? How does
the role of the Traders evolve in the novel's closing chapters?
13. What were the root causes of the Foundation's fall? Could
its demise have been avoided, even after war had begun?
14. As Lord of the Universe, is Cleon II naïve or perceptive? In
what ways do his sensibilities affect his fate?
15. What, ultimately, is the source of the Mule's power to
perform Conversions in Foundation and Empire? What
role did psychology play in his own origins?
16. Do the Independent Trading Worlds accurately perceive their
vulnerabilities? In contrast, what perpetuated Neotrantor's
17. Bayta's final conversation with the Mule explains his
moniker as well as his perceptions of how power is perpetuated.
What does this dialogue indicate about gender roles in the realm of
the Second Foundation, and about the possibility of democracy?
18. Discuss the spectrum of characters affected by the Mule in
Second Foundation's five opening interludes. In
what ways do the Mule's tactics vary?
19. In what ways does Bail Channis's personality reflect a
cultural shift from the previous Foundation novels?
20. Near the beginning of the fifteenth chapter, Arcadia is
described as "dressed in borrowed clothes, standing on a borrowed
planet in a borrowed situation of what seemed even to be a borrowed
life." In what ways is she both an unlikely and an ideal
21. Scholarship such as the Encyclopedia project represented
Hari's belief in the power of learning (and even the power of the
mind itself, in the form of neural microcurrents). To what extent
is a civilization's success measured by the survival of its
22. The final chapter of Second Foundation
offers a thoughtful coda to the novel. What is the "true" question
to that chapter's "answer that was true?"
23. If Hari Seldon's equations were applied to Earth's
societies, what might the results be?
24. What connotations and root words were you able to derive
from the character names and geographic locations featured in the
25. How does the series evolve as a whole? What overarching
narrative is propelled by the events that occur within the
26. Isaac Asimov wrote these three books very early in his
career, during the 1950s-an era marked by the Cold War,
McCarthyism, and the early stages of the space race. How might the
events of this period have shaped the Foundation storyline?
27. In what sense does the trilogy offer a cautionary tale for
contemporary leaders in politics, science, and the humanities?