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Old July 5 2013, 10:41 AM   #1
JoeZhang
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Foundation, empire and robots

Since I'm on holiday, I've been re-reading the Asimov Foundation books (and various robot books like The Caves of Steel). A few questions:

1) What did you think of the Greg Bear foundation trilogy?

2) Anyone read Pyschohistory crisis by Donald Kingsbury - I've heard good things about it and was looking to pick up a second hand copy

3) Do you think that Asimov was ultimately successful in melding together his two universes?
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Old July 5 2013, 12:06 PM   #2
Allyn Gibson
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
1) What did you think of the Greg Bear foundation trilogy?
The first book, Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fear is... Well, Benford updates the Foundation universe to account for modern science, and what you get is interesting but very flawed.

The second book, Greg Bear's Foundation and Chaos, is much better.

The third book, David Brin's Foundation's Triumph, is the best official Foundation novel since Foundation's Edge.

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
2) Anyone read Pyschohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury - I've heard good things about it and was looking to pick up a second hand copy
Do it.

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
3) Do you think that Asimov was ultimately successful in melding together his two universes?
In general, yes.
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Old July 5 2013, 02:08 PM   #3
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
3) Do you think that Asimov was ultimately successful in melding together his two universes?
Three universes, really: the robot series; the Galactic Empire series of The Stars, Like Dust, The Currents of Space, and Pebble in the Sky; and the Foundation series. The latter two weren't originally connected despite both involving a Galactic Empire. Plus he managed to indirectly tie into The End of Eternity and Nemesis as well, though the latter is a more inexact fit.

From what I recall, I think he managed to fit them together moderately well; it helped that most of his fiction built on certain common assumptions and technological tropes, so there were some built-in similarities even without explicit connection. But I did feel it got a bit overindulgent, and some of the later novels felt more like extended exercises in continuity-stitching than anything else.

But it's been a long time since I read them, and there's one, Forward the Foundation, that I've had for years but never gotten around to reading. I've been meaning for years to get a complete collection of the whole continuity (just the Asimov books, not the ones by other authors) and read the whole thing through in more-or-less chronological order, and I recently managed to complete the set, but I've been too busy with other stuff to get around to it yet.
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Old July 5 2013, 03:23 PM   #4
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

I think he mostly succeeded, but it felt forced to me. I never felt the need for an explicit link between the two. A bit of mystery would have added to the mythos, in my opinion.

But the biggest issue for me is the character of R. Giskard, which was stiff, forced and utterly uninteresting.

EtA: I've never read anything from other authors set in the Asimov's universe, so I have no opinion on them.
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Old July 5 2013, 04:19 PM   #5
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

iguana_tonante wrote: View Post
EtA: I've never read anything from other authors set in the Asimov's universe, so I have no opinion on them.
Roger MacBride Allen's Caliban trilogy is fantastic.

Robot City/Robots and Aliens -- I loved these when I was thirteen. That's probably the best thing I can say about them.

Robots In Time -- Dire.

Mark Teidemann's trilogy -- A sequel to Robot City, but it seems to have been written by someone who never read Asimov because he truly misunderstands the Spacers.

I have not read Have Robot Will Travel nor the recent Susan Calvin novel.

And Foundation's Friends is worth it for Orson Scott Card's "The Originist." The rest of the book is pretty bland.
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Old July 5 2013, 05:40 PM   #6
JoeZhang
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

Who is the Susan Calvin novel by?
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Old July 5 2013, 05:58 PM   #7
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
Who is the Susan Calvin novel by?
Mickey Zucker Reichert.
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Old July 5 2013, 06:10 PM   #8
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

Allyn Gibson wrote: View Post
iguana_tonante wrote: View Post
EtA: I've never read anything from other authors set in the Asimov's universe, so I have no opinion on them.
Roger MacBride Allen's Caliban trilogy is fantastic.

Robot City/Robots and Aliens -- I loved these when I was thirteen. That's probably the best thing I can say about them.

Robots In Time -- Dire.

Mark Teidemann's trilogy -- A sequel to Robot City, but it seems to have been written by someone who never read Asimov because he truly misunderstands the Spacers.

I have not read Have Robot Will Travel nor the recent Susan Calvin novel.

And Foundation's Friends is worth it for Orson Scott Card's "The Originist." The rest of the book is pretty bland.
The Turtledove story with the Sacking of Trantor was pretty good too.
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Old July 5 2013, 06:13 PM   #9
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

I tried the "Killer B's" Foundation trilogy, but didn't really enjoy it. Asimov left the Foundation novels in the middle of the Interregnum, with five centuries worth of history to cover before the establishment of the Second Empire. Why did the authors feel the need to cover Hari Seldon's life again? It seemed a missed opportunity to me. Five hundred years free to explore, and they retread well-covered ground.

I really love Psychohistorical Crisis. It's a great homage and though not technically set in Asimov's universe, it's a great story. Some people might think it bogs down a bit in places, with too much exposition about mathematics (among other subjects), but I enjoyed every bit of it. It took me years to find a copy, though.

I thought the stitching of the Robots, Empire, and Foundation novels worked pretty well. I enjoyed seeing the long spans of history that Asimov covered, over 20,000 years. Despite all the novels, they still only built a thumbnail sketch of a Galactic society, and I would enjoy reading more stories set in that universe, especially if they are of Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis caliber.
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Old July 5 2013, 08:37 PM   #10
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

Pavonis wrote: View Post
I really love Psychohistorical Crisis. It's a great homage and though not technically set in Asimov's universe, it's a great story. Some people might think it bogs down a bit in places, with too much exposition about mathematics (among other subjects), but I enjoyed every bit of it.
Interesting. I'll try to find it (maybe in Italian, but, I doubt it).
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Old July 5 2013, 09:56 PM   #11
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

JoeZhang wrote: View Post
Since I'm on holiday, I've been re-reading the Asimov Foundation books (and various robot books like The Caves of Steel). A few questions:

1) What did you think of the Greg Bear foundation trilogy?
The Killer Bs Trilogy was as good as you would expect from authors of that caliber-- but totally inappropriate for the Foundation Universe. They not only screwed with the canon, but changed the whole underlying concept into something ugly. Calling robots Tiktoks isn't a loophole for using robots where none should be. And their explanation for the all-human galaxy was mind-boggling SF, but turned the greatest SF future history ever written into a sickening holocaust. They should have written their own story in their own universe.

2) Anyone read Pyschohistory crisis by Donald Kingsbury - I've heard good things about it and was looking to pick up a second hand copy
It's a fantastic book in its own right and a wonderful homage to the influence of the Foundation series. This guy did it the way the Killer Bs should have-- he let the Foundation inspire him to write his own story. It's a very dense, almost overwhelming, epic that needs to be read more than once.

3) Do you think that Asimov was ultimately successful in melding together his two universes?
Very much so.

I think the only other Foundation tie-ins that I've read by other authors were the Caliban books, which I liked quite a bit.
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Old July 6 2013, 03:52 AM   #12
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

Allyn Gibson wrote: View Post
Mark Teidemann's trilogy -- A sequel to Robot City, but it seems to have been written by someone who never read Asimov because he truly misunderstands the Spacers.

I have not read Have Robot Will Travel nor the recent Susan Calvin novel.
Have Robot Will Travel was, to my recollection, better than Robot City/Robots and Aliens but another step down from the Tiedemann novels.

I agree with Allyn's assessment on everything. I've reread the BBB Foundation trilogy, and the Caliban trilogy, several times. Haven't been able to bring myself to reread any of the other robots books - once was enough, thank you.
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Old July 6 2013, 04:27 AM   #13
Allyn Gibson
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

RJDiogenes wrote: View Post
The Killer Bs Trilogy was as good as you would expect from authors of that caliber-- but totally inappropriate for the Foundation Universe. [SNIP] And their explanation for the all-human galaxy was mind-boggling SF, but turned the greatest SF future history ever written into a sickening holocaust.
But that goes to the point of the Kiiler B trilogy, that the inescapable logic of the Three Laws was more harmful than good because in their efforts to uphold the First Law the robots could do impossibly unfathomable evil. And further, that humanity doesn't need keepers.

Personally, I loved the revelation in Foundation's Triumph that Olivaw stacked the deck in Foundation's Edge so that his preferred solution to the problem of humanity would be imposed. I love the subtle way the book points out that Hari Seldon's viewpoint, that humanity can make its own way with the Foundation, is the viewpoint that wins out; what need is there of an Encyclopedia Galactica in a Galaxia?

Yes, the revelation that the robots sterilized the galaxy was chilling. That was the point. The First Law doesn't allow a robot the flexibility to see another intelligence as anything but a potential threat to a human being. It's the proactiveness of the thing that is so breathtaking.

It's funny. When Caliban came out, I really wanted Caliban to meet Daneel Olivaw, and I hoped that would happen in one of the later books. Obviously, it didn't, and after Triumph I'm glad it didn't. Olivaw never would have suffered Caliban or the New Law robots to live. He couldn't. They were uncontrollable rogue elements. He would have destroyed them immediately.

I guess one's reaction to the Second Foundation trilogy depends strongly on how one feels about R. Daneel Olivaw because, frankly, the Killer Bs portray Olivaw, though not without justification, as a genocidal monster. For me, that's not an illegitimate interpretation of the character we see in Earth and Prelude.
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Old July 6 2013, 05:35 AM   #14
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

Why did the authors feel the need to write Foundation novels to explore Robotic story themes, though? Foundation was prominent in the title. I expected novels of Foundation-based stories, not another exploration of Hari Seldon and Daneel Olivaw, or the implications of the Three Laws.
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Old July 6 2013, 08:51 AM   #15
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Re: Foundation, empire and robots

Allyn Gibson wrote: View Post

It's funny. When Caliban came out, I really wanted Caliban to meet Daneel Olivaw, and I hoped that would happen in one of the later books. Obviously, it didn't, and after Triumph I'm glad it didn't. Olivaw never would have suffered Caliban or the New Law robots to live. He couldn't. They were uncontrollable rogue elements. He would have destroyed them immediately.
Isn't that what Foundation's triumph says happened to them anyway? They were all wiped out.
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