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5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Science Fiction Lovers
Hi,
I have often browsed book reviews online but have never written one. Until now.
Psychohistorical Crisis is a work of surpassing brilliance but it is not for everyone.
If you're looking for a quick read, look elsewhere: Donald Kingsbury has decided to immerse you in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" universe and show you what a galaxy with 100,000...
Published on Dec 26 2003 by Ovarwa

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing premise yet ultimately disappointing
As has been mentioned, Psychohistorical Crisis is a re-imagining of Asimov's Foundation series. Specifically, Kingsbury concentrates on how the science of Psychohistory could be used by the ruling elite to maintain law and order throughout the galaxy. But what happens if an opposing force was also able to use the same science to countermand the ruling parties...
Published on May 23 2002 by Jacob Frantz


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4.0 out of 5 stars Thematic sequel to Asimov's Foundation Novels, March 10 2004
By 
Jvstin "Paul Weimer" (Twin Cities, MN United States) - See all my reviews
Psychohistorical Crisis, by Donald Kingsbury
A few years ago, the Asimov estate authorized three Foundation novels, by Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and David Brin. I stopped reading that series after the first, when I realized Benford rehashed and imported large portions of two novellas of his to make up the bulk of that book.
Psychohistorical Crisis is a different kettle of fish. Not an authorized sequel or officially set in the Asimov universe, it nevertheless is understood to take place in a world very much like that. Names are changed. Earth is Rith, Trantor is Splendid Wisdom. But the universe is here. The time is the Second Empire, the one set up after the Interrgenum by the psychohistorians. We get a look at the galaxy under their rule.
Although jumping a few viewpoints and characters and time frames, the story focuses around a psychohistorian, Eron Osa, and the consequences of his crime that he cannot remember. But there is much more at work. We see his life history, and many points of major characters connected to him. As psychohistory is a fusion of history and mathematics, there are helpings of both in this book.
Dense is a good way to describe the book. It moves patiently and slowly, and I get the feeling the book itself has been cut, since some viewpoint characters have oddly truncated end-games. But the journey there is immersive, and Kingsbury makes you feel the age of the Empire. And his central thesis about psychohistory is fascinating.
Its not light reading by any means, but nevertheless its recommended. A caveat: reading or being familiar with Asimov's Foundation universe will make the experience richer and worthwhile. I wouldn't read this book without having at least sampled the original ur-text.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Science Fiction Lovers, Dec 26 2003
By 
Ovarwa "ovarwa" (Sunnyvale, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Psychohistorical Crisis (Hardcover)
Hi,
I have often browsed book reviews online but have never written one. Until now.
Psychohistorical Crisis is a work of surpassing brilliance but it is not for everyone.
If you're looking for a quick read, look elsewhere: Donald Kingsbury has decided to immerse you in Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" universe and show you what a galaxy with 100,000 years of history might be like. Any science fiction writer can waves his hands and say "thousands of years," but Kingsbury can make you feel those years.
If you're looking for epic space battles, look elsewhere: A character in Asimov's original Foundation trilogy says that violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. This is a galaxy ruled by mathematicians.
If you're looking for extensive character development, look elsewhere: To write this novel, Kingsbury did not merely imitate Asimov's style but absorbed it, warts and all. This homage to the Foundation universe is more true to the original than the prequels authorized by the Asimov estate or even the Asimov's own sequels.
If you didn't like the Foundation trilogy, look elsewhere: This book is the true inheritor of the Foundation trilogy, though the serial numbers have been filed off. If you haven't read the Foundation trilogy, that's the place to start. Then read Pebble in the Sky.
If you have read a Kingsbury book before and didn't like it, look elsewhere: Somehow, Kingsbury has written a book that is true to his own style and themes while being true to those of the original Foundation.
Psychohistorical Crisis is a novel of ideas in the tradition of classic science fiction, but is itself an extremely modern book that takes an unflinching and sometimes unflattering look at the ideas implicit in the original Foundation. Each work is very much of its time.
I'd love to talk about the themes of Psychohistorical Crisis, but wouldn't it be better for you to read the book for yourself?
Psychohistorical Crisis is the true Second Foundation.
Anyway,
KenK
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5.0 out of 5 stars Far in the distant future . . ., Dec 2 2003
By 
Alec Axt "Ritmoman" (Santa Rosa, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Psychohistorical Crisis (Hardcover)
I am a long time science fiction fan and was very impressed by Psychohistorical Crisis. I believe the author creates an amazingly complex view of future civilization, very detailed with interesting characters and technical innovations. It is a mystery novel also, why was the fam of Eron Osa "executed"?, where is Zurnl? What is the relationship of Lord Hahukum to the Pscholars overall strategy for managing the Galaxy?, will the Smythosians succeed in challenging the Pscholars supremacy? Underlying the dense plot,(I'm much in disagreement with other reviewers here), is the mathematical theme, complicated at times, but logically intact and gives the whole a plausible quality, rare in science fiction. I was amused how astrology plays a role in the plot. I don't remember the Foundation trilogy well, I read it in junior high, but this work stands alone, a virtuoso effort. I plan to reread the Foundation. After reading "Crisis" I quickly got a copy of "Courtship Rite" and find it quite unique and imaginative. "Psychohistorical crisis", a great science ficition novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Prerequisites, June 25 2003
By 
Jason Riley (Jacksonville, FL United States) - See all my reviews
Before you read this opus by Kingsbury, you have a mandatory reading assignment. Read Asimov's Foundation series, all of them. Follow that up by taking some college level physics, math, history and philosophy. Keep your dictionary handy. Now you are set to tackle this book.
The main bent of Crisis is an almost natural question of what happens when others outside of the Foundation start to develop their own predictive methods a la psychohistory. Since the predictive abilities of psychohistory lay in the ignorance of the masses of their predicted fate (a Westinghouse effect basically), Kingsbury asks what happens when you have multiple predicting groups working with similar tools in an attempt to be king. Or at the very least, work for their own percieved best interest.
I have very little to complain about with this book, save maybe the mathematical proofs Kingsbury has Eron run through in self discourse. The fams (see above reviews for explanation) were both intriguing and terrifying. Overall a good read for someone who has read the Foundation series several times.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Dull and disappointing, June 15 2002
By 
Gus Smedstad (Boston, MA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Psychohistorical Crisis (Hardcover)
Kingsbury attempts a sequel of sorts to Asimov's work, but it's neither "The Moon Goddess and the Son", or "The Foundation Trilogy". Instead, it's Kingsbury's thesis on the details of how psychohistory might work with a thin plot mixed in so he can pretend it's a novel.
The science of psychohistory is a secret closely guarded by the the ruling psychohistorians, so the main characters spend most of the novel attempting to re-create it. This is the excuse the author uses to bury the reader under hundreds of pages of psuedo-technical speculative ramblings about an imaginary science.
Throughout the book Kingsbury emphasizes the importance of "fams", electronic extensions to the brain that increase intelligence which all of the characters wear and use. After a while this becomes hard to swallow, not for technical reasons, but because none of the characters behave terribly intelligently.
One of the subplots is a character who loses his "fam", and must learn to function without it. From the jacket blurb, you might think this was the focus of the book. In fact, it's a minor thread, and it's just an excuse to subject the reader to that character's attempts to relearn psychohistory.
Ultimately, we don't care about either the characters or the plot. The Second Empire never comes across as a tyranny, and it's very hard to understand why any of the characters want to overthrow it.
Kingsbury has a few interesting ideas about information content, entropy, and how the past is just as uncertain as the future, but they would have been better presented in a short speculative article in a SF magazine.
Stay away from this one, even if you're a Kingsbury or Asimov fan.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A book for fans of Foundation and future histories, June 9 2002
This review is from: Psychohistorical Crisis (Hardcover)
If you were a fan of Isaac Asimov's original Foundation trilogy but were bitterly disappointed (as I was) with his 1980s extension of the series, then Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis may be for you! Fans of complex future histories such as that of H. Beam Piper may also want to slug their way through the book, but be warned: Although rewarding in many ways, the book is quite dense and does take some effort to get through.
Kingsbury works from the original Foundation Trilogy, veiling the scenario somewhat (Trantor becomes Splendid Wisdom; the Mule becomes Cloun-the-Stubborn), and updates the technology to that which modern readers can appreciate (Cloun used mind control tech to upset the Foundation plan, and the Second Foundation - here called the Pscholars - improved on it to counter him, resulting in supercomputers implanted in peoples' heads, called 'fams'). He then figures that the Foundation plan was carried through to the founding of a Second Empire, and 1600 years later this Empire is under control of the Pscholars.
The hook into the story is that Pscholar Eron Osa has committed a crime so horrible that his fam is destroyed - not good, considering that most of his memories and skills were on the fan. Kingsbury then shows us how Osa got to this point, how he was unwittingly used by the Oversee, a group trying to rebel against the Pscholars, and how he was mentores by Hahukum Konn, a brilliant but eccentric Pscholar. And we eventually learn what's really going on, and what's really threatening the stability of the Empire.
Kingsbury goes all out to paint the history of his galaxy, and to a great extent the novel is an exploration of history and our perceptions of it. This element is wildly successful, although not perhaps for everyone. Also successful is his exploration of how one might organize a rebellion against overlords who can predict the future (or, at least, the future of large numbers of people), and some of the details of how Psychohistory might world, and its limitations.
The book does ultimately have the disappointment that it ends rather abruptly, bringing some closure to Eron Osa's story, but leaving open the question of how the crisis of the book's title will resolve itself. The book is also not very character-heavy (and is strangely almost devoid of strong female characters, for reasons hard to fathom). Still, this is a delightful book for fans of futuristing world- (or galaxy-) building, and it's hard to fault it for being tremendously ambitious, even if it doesn't fully achieve its ambitions.
And, best of all, it leaves Asimov's later novels in its dust.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing premise yet ultimately disappointing, May 23 2002
By 
Jacob Frantz (Tomball, Tx USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Psychohistorical Crisis (Hardcover)
As has been mentioned, Psychohistorical Crisis is a re-imagining of Asimov's Foundation series. Specifically, Kingsbury concentrates on how the science of Psychohistory could be used by the ruling elite to maintain law and order throughout the galaxy. But what happens if an opposing force was also able to use the same science to countermand the ruling parties policies?
This question is the basic premise for the events that unfold throughout the book. The story takes place over a span of a few decades and details how the opposition attempts to place a mole in the ruling party to try and sabotage the current policies of government. The story jumps back and forth in time, but this isn't as distracting as it seems since each period has its own distince events unfolding throughout.
The most interesting part of this story is the discussions the characters engage in concerning psychohistory, its mathemetics, and how it is used to govern trillions of people throughout the galaxy. Kingsbury has obviously put a lot of thought into what a science of psychohistory woould be and how mathematics would be used. Far from being dry reading, these discussions are actually quite though provoking.
Unfortunately, the rest of the book, detailing the actions of the characters, just wasn't as interesting. The characters are generally well thought out, but I never cared too much one way or the other for any of them. And the climax, which happens right at the very end of the book, wasn't that dramatic at all. It felt like a let down after the build up.
Overall, for a stimulating discussion of psychohistory and for his well done re-imaginging of the Foundation series, I give it 3 stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars none, March 4 2002
By 
Gary S. Potter (Mount Pleasant, SC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Psychohistorical Crisis (Hardcover)
In the world of SF there are writers who are gems, then there are those who are rare gems: Michael Bishop, Samuel Delany, William Gibson immediately spring to mind, and so does Donald Kingsbury. Kingsbury has only produced a handful of novels in the last 20 years, but what novels they are. Broad in time and space and scope, wonder and awe, and writing that's virtually poetic. From his "Courtship Rite" to "The Moon Goddess and the Son" to his 1994 "The Heroic Myth of Lt Nora Argamentive", Kingsbury has a way of leaving the reader awed by his vision. With "Psychohistorical Crisis", expanded from his 1997 novella, Kingsbury continues his tradition of richly imagined and thought-provoking ideas Exotic settings, engaging characters, multi-layered plots all blended to sheer perfection, and is a rare and wonderful find in SF today, and to read (Kingsbury) is to experience what pure SF is all about. Gary S. Potter Author/Poet
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4.0 out of 5 stars Clever reimagination of Asimov's Foundation universe, Feb. 26 2002
By 
Richard R. Horton (Webster Groves, MO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Psychohistorical Crisis (Hardcover)
Donald Kinsgsbury has hugely expanded his 1995 novella "Historical Crisis" into a long novel. I quite enjoyed "Historical Crisis", though I found it a bit melodramatic, and a bit too rapid. The novel is still a bit melodramatic (in an enjoyable fashion) and also much slower than "Historical Crisis", perhaps at times a bit too slow.
The book is set from 14790 GE to 14810 GE. This is about 2700 years after the death of the "Founder" and the near simultaneous establishment of the equivalent of the "First Foundation" on a planet called Faraway. It's about 1600 years after the formal establishment of the Pax Pscholaris, the "Second Empire" under the rule of the Pscychohistorians called Pscholars. As may be clear, Kingsbury's universe is an update and rethinking of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Universe, with psi powers replaced by high tech, and with a slightly more sophisticated look at the background math. (Kingsbury, to be sure, is a pr Indeed, he is very interested in treating Psychohistory with some seriousness, and in asking how well the secret society of Pscholars can really keep psychohistory secret, and how ultimately stable their rule will be.
The key extra tech is something called the "familiar", or "fam" -- sort of a PDA with extra memory and processing which links directly to the brain. You adjust to it from the age of 3, and your personal adjustment theoretically makes it impossible for anyone else to exercise control over you through it. Pretty much everybody in rich societies has one, and indeed it is all but impossible to get around Splendid Wisdom (Kingsbury's version of Asimov's Trantor) without it.
The story begins with the trial of a young psychohistorian named Eron Osa. He is condemned to death, and summarily executed -- by having his fam destroyed. His body, with its near useless "wet" brain, is allowed to live. He cannot even understand his crime -- all the data about it was in his fam. Soon he is desperately trying to relearn normal living skills, as he also begins to receive strange messages.
The story soon is following four points of view, 20 years in the past. We follow Eron Osa as a 12 year old boy on the planet Agander, as he yearns to become a psychohistorian. We follow Eron's tutor, Murek Kapor, who is in secret Hiranimus Scogil, the member of a secret group trying to develop psychohistory independently and to counteract the Pscholars' efforts. We follow Admiral Hahukum Konn, the second most powerful Pscholar, and an enthusiast for ancient weapons systems, as he searches for a worthy student to learn his eccentric interpretation of Psychohistory. And we follow the elderly Hyperlord Kikaju Jama, an antiques dealer who is interested in upsetting the static social order, especially after he discovers a strange device that shows the stars of the Galaxy, and that hints at a secret planet hidden by the Pscholars. We also follow a fifth thread, as events in the "present" lead toward a climax.
The four threads converge after years for the action of the climax, which is exciting, even though full of math, and which reveals Kingsbury doing some interesting thinking about stability versus vigor in a society. It's really quite fun, and the world Kingsbury creates is fascinating. I quite liked Kingsbury's names: the Frightfulperson Otaria of the Calmer Sea being a particular example. The actual given names, such as Eron Osa, are nods to Asimov's rather unharmonious naming habits. The book is long, and sometimes rather slow, but on the whole it is a good read. It is considerably more interesting than the new books in the actual Foundation universe which were authorized after Asimov's death.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Distinctive, Jan. 14 2002
By 
Robert I. Katz (Port Jefferson, New York USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Psychohistorical Crisis (Hardcover)
Some years ago, the Foundation Trilogy won an honorary Hugo as the best science fiction series ever. I've always doubted that it deserved that singular honor, but I cannot deny the billiance of Asimov's concept nor the wide-ranging impact of his work. Where Asimov fell down was on characterization, and his style, while adequate, was hardly beautiful. I have often thought that Asimov, one of the most prolific writers in history, would have been a better writer if he had written a little less and polished a little more. Kingsbury's style is better than Asimov's, and has written a book that is (for me, at any rate) far more engrossing in the same Psychohistorical Universe. Kingsbury's books (sadly, all too few of them, only 3 original novels plus 2 short knockoffs in Larry Niven's War Against the Kzin series) almost burst with creative, marvelous asides. This is a wonderful story, and if it occasionally lags a bit, or gets bogged down in complex descriptions of mathematics that do not, in fact, exist, these are minor quibbles. And frankly, such sections can be skimmed over without harming the reader's appreciation of the story. Eron Osa is an attractive, sympathetic protagonist. His situation, "execution" for publishing secrets that the Psychohistorical bureaucracy does not wish revealed, might seem too esoteric in the hands of a less talented author than Kingsbury, but here resonates perfectly. All in all, highly recommended.
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