Some novels are more clearly than others inspired by earlier books of other authors. Such is the case with Psychohistorical Crisis, which is at times a homage to Asimov’s Foundation books, but also a discussion and at times a refutation of some of the concepts of Asimov’s novels. We’re in the far future, long after the first galactic empire has collapsed. After a 30.000 years phase of anarchy, a second galactic empire was established by mathematics who use a science called ‘Psychohistory’, a form of sociology that uses math to predict macro scale social developments, to control the course of mankind’s history. But this special kind of mathematics is secret, only known to those few that call themselves psychohistorians.
Their argument for secrecy is that to make meaningful use of the predictions, only a small groups can be allowed to know the shape of the future. But is this really the case? When one day the young psychohistorian Eron Osa publishes openly his discoveries about the repercussions of secrecy on the predictions and the control over the future through psychohistory, he is sentenced guilty for betraying the psycho- historians and stripped of the intelligence augmentations he used since he was a little kid, those augmentations that made him who he is today. Unknown to Eron himself and the psychohistorians, this action sets in motion decades old machinations of those that work secretly against the psychohistorians.
The novel begins in the present, where Eron tries, now without intelligence augmentations, to find out what had happened to him and why, and then jumps back in time to his youth. The two strands of the story, how Eron got to be a psychohistorian and what happens in the present are told parallel, until the strand from the past reaches the present and the present strand reaches its culmination.
Lesser writer would have had problems to make the story of Eron’s past interesting or even engaging, thankfully Kingsbury writing is absorbing enough to avoid boredom. Readers who are more interested in pure action will very likely have problems with the book, but those who are interested in the fascinating setting and the question that arise from this background, will find it a very rewarding read. Probably the best sequel the Foundation books by Asimov will ever have, leagues better than the sequels written by the Killer B’s and in the end even surpassing the originals.