Benford's previous output includes a sequel to a story written by Arthur C. Clarke (Beyond the Fall of Night, 1990). Here, he inaugurates a trilogy (subsequent authors will be Greg Bear and David Brin) that will form a quasi-sequel to the late Isaac Asimov's famous Foundation series (Forward the Foundation, 1993, etc.) about ``psycho-history,'' the mathematical modeling of human behavior, and the fall of a far-future galactic empire. The mathematician Hari Seldon is first in line to be appointed First Minister by Emperor Cleon, even though his psychohistorical theories remain incomplete; Hari's meager political skills will be boosted by the secret efforts of the immortal robot, Daneel Olivaw, and Hari's wife, Dors Vanabili--another robot! The slippery and ruthless Betan Lamurk, however, a rival candidate for the office, will stop at nothing to oust Hari. Additional complications arise when a couple of electronically reconstituted personalities, Voltaire and Joan of Arc, escape into planet Trantor's computer network; the ``tiktoks'' or subintelligent machines stage a revolt; and some ancient disembodied computer-entities, blaming robots for the destruction of their machine-civilization, seek revenge. Sometimes needlessly and annoyingly meddlesome, but yet another curious blend of reinventions and retrospective criticism, intriguing and engrossing when Benford extends and embellishes Asimov's vision.