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on December 26, 2003
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.
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on December 2, 2003
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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on June 25, 2003
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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on March 4, 2002
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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on January 6, 2002
Killing time before a movie I came across this book while browsing through the SF section. I was intrigued by the concept since the Foundation series certainly stands the test of time with its novel ideas and great story. After just about missing the movie because I couldn't put the book back on the shelf I decided to buy it...
Ever come across a book that you really have a hard time putting down? Well, this one has an interesting concept (extending and detailing the psychohistorians sketched by Asimov), good characters and a really well thought out future. Kingsbury's background in mathematics is evident in the manner in which he handles subject within the book (something I think Asimov was missing a bit) and it is also obvious that Kingsbury has some deep insight into chaos and how life rides the knife edge of change, both positive and negative.
I particularly enjoyed the sections detailing archeological digs on an ancient earth in addition to his way of not going into massive amounts of description to explain everything. That is, there is willing suspension of disbelief due to his writing skills without the need to try to flout psuedoscientific mumbo-jumbo to beat your brain into submission.
The story follows the life of a renegade psychohistorian through his childhood and initial "corruption" by an underground rival group (to the dominant psychohistorians). Kingsbury has some great concepts, particularly "fams" (manufactured neural add-ons), that work very well with his interesting characters and social milleau. He's also obviously familiar with how scholarly institutions work as well as typical student ghettos and hangouts.
Enjoy, the only thing lacking with this work is a more catchy title!
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on December 28, 2001
I was so fortunate to come across this fascinating book. Imagine that you find yourself appearing before a high court and being sentenced for some terrible crime -- except you can't remember who you are or what you did. And your brain enhancer/ memory keeper/ skills archive that's been with you since you learned to walk has been removed. What's going on?
The book combines the hard science of Ben Bova with a good yarn of Orson Scott Card. Written by a mathematician, this book continues in the universe established by Asimov years ago in a thoroughly engaging possible future taking place multiple thousand years from now. If you like Asimov, you'll love this book. If you've never read Asimov or hate him, guess what? You'll still love this book. Be patient in learning this new world. There's a lot of history to master and a few names to remember, but the journey is well worth the effort.
Cheers to the author!
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on November 25, 2002
I am a long time Asimov fan and the Foundation books were very much a favorite. I have found the recent crop of books from other authors, trying to follow the Foundation story line, to be very disappointing.
The "Psychohistorical Crisis", in contrast, was an excellent addition to the Foundation universe. I read an average of a 20 books a year and I have to say I found this to be the best one of the year by far. I highly recommend it. (The only unfortunate aspect of the book is that Kingsbury only has one in the Foundation universe.)
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on November 18, 2015
Great, exactly as described.
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