Kingsbury’s first outing in 15 years (The Moon Goddess and the Son, 1986; Courtship Rite, 1982) reinvents the late Isaac Asimov’s famous Foundation trilogy, treating the original as a thinly fictionalized account of actual Galactic history. In 75,000 years from now, more than 1,600 years after the establishment of the Second Empire, the mathematical-whiz Pscholars benevolently rule the galaxy from planet Splendid Wisdom, using psychohistory—the utterly top-secret science of predicting by statistical means the behavior of huge numbers of human beings—to defuse and deflect threats and crises before they even become apparent. Everyone owns, and depends on, a “fam,” a sort of external supplementary brain. As the story opens, psychohistorian Eron Osa’s fam is executed; afterward, all but helpless, Eron Osa can’t even remember what his crime was! Eventually we learn that, despite the efforts of Rector Jars Hanis and his rival, Hahukum Konn, rebellions against the rule of the Pscholars simmer. Hiranimus Scogil and his co-conspirators, attempting to develop their own psychohistory, manipulated a 12-year-old prodigy, Eron Osa, into becoming a psychohistorian under the wing of Hahukum Konn. Brilliantly, Eron Osa developed his own devastating analysis of the current situation. But neither Hanis nor Konn could countenance his results. Therefore, his crime and his punishment. As the psychohistorical crisis unfolds, can Eron Osa, the conspirators, and the Pscholars find a solution before the Empire falls?
A bold and fascinating attempt to reimagine a science fiction classic; unfortunately, amid all the noise of flashbacks, character-building, and historical jokes, it’s hard to distinguish the worthwhile signal.