Robot and Foundation series
The Robot Series
These consist of numerous short stories, as well as some long ones such as The Positronic Man. The robots are mostly positronic, and are firmly programmed to follow Dr. Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, which in human terms may be written as:
- A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The stories involve the psychological and behavioral implications of the Three Laws. "Little Lost Robot", for example, is about a special robot who's First Law has been modified dangerously, and has hidden himself among sixty-two other robots who are otherwise identical. Dr. Susan Calvin, robopsychologist, finds him through the behavioral quirks introduced by the modification.
"The Positronic Man"
(with Robert Silverberg)
From Asimov's 'Robot' universe, this story is set on an Earth which is just starting to get used to the idea of robots. But Robot NDR-113 (Andrew) is no ordinary robot. He has traces of emotions, and a gift for fine arts. In an attempt to become human, he develops several prosthetic devices, which prove a boon to humans. An extraordinary story about an extraordinary robot. Although this book has no direct bearing on the Foundation series, it fits within the framework.
"The Caves of Steel"
This is the first book which truly fits in the Foundation Universe. It introduces R. Daneel Olivaw and Plainclothesman Elijah Bailey as detectives in New York. They are investigating a political murder. The murdered man is Dr. Sarton, a Spacer: one of those colonists who despise and disown their Earthly heritage. Since the crime has been committed in New York, it falls under the jurisdiction of the New York Police Department. But Bailey must be careful with his partner, for Daneel Olivaw is a Spacer observer, who will be investigating the handling of the investigation. One slip could land Elijah Bailey in a lot of trouble... and that's an understatement.
"The Naked Sun"
This is more or less a sequel to The Caves of Steel. It takes place a few years later. R. Daneel Olivaw has returned to the Spacer planets, and Plainclothesman Elijah Bailey has returned to his life as a New York City police detective. But another murder has been committed, this time on a Spacer world. The Spacers want Elijah and Daneel to be teamed up for this investigation, as it's the first murder on the Spacer planets and they have no way of dealing with it.
Thus, R. Daneel and Elijah find themselves on Solaria: a planet they know little about, investigating an impossible murder. Interrogation is made very difficult for the gregarious Elijah, for the Solarians are extreme hermits. They live alone and see no one. All contact is by video conference and direct contact is with robots only. This is what makes the murder impossible, for the Three Laws of Robotics make it unthinkable that a robot could commit murder.
Elijah is also handicapped by his extreme agoraphobia. At the time of this story, all Earth consists of several huge cities -- the famous Caves of Steel. So, Elijah has little experience with open spaces; and Solaria is mostly open space. But, in the end, good old detective instinct prevails, and Elijah comes up with the answer....
"The Currents of Space"
This is set during the golden age of the Galactic Empire. It takes place on two planets, Sark and Florina. Florina is a unique and valuable planet, being the only source of kyrt fabric in the Galaxy. But it is under the control of the Squires of Sark, who control the kyrt trade with an iron fist. Kyrt is actually a strain of cotton, but only on Florina does this grow into kyrt. On all other planets, it yields sub-standard cotton. This is the source of Sark's wealth. Although it grows on Florina, the Florinian 'natives' are looked upon as inferior and are all but brainwashed into worshipping the Sarkites.
An amnesiac man is found among Florinians, and as he regains his memory, he tries to get back to his former life. This is made difficult because he is thought to be a Florinian, and a half-crazy one at that.
This is more a sociological and political story, and has little to do with the main series, except that the Galactic capital planet Trantor is mentioned. Also, the lost Spatio-analyst is from a radioactive Earth, which fits very well with the history of the Foundation.
"Forward the Foundation"
This is the story of Hari Seldon's life when he was working on the psychohistory project. It reveals how he developed the science of psychohistory while battling all opposition to his project. Some of Seldon's family life is also revealed.
It is said that Dr. Seldon was Dr. Asimov's alter ego in the Foundation universe. This is easy to believe, since Dr. Asimov died soon after writing about Dr. Seldon's death. This was the last book of the Foundation series that he wrote.