Top positive review
Thematic sequel to Asimov's Foundation Novels
on March 10, 2004
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.