Psychohistorical Crisis

Posted by : atcampbell | On : April 15, 2003

Psychohistorical Crisis by Donald Kingsbury

Twelve people showed up for this discussion at the home of the Brothers Siros. Our topic, Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, is a far-future novel about mathematicians who try to predict the future. Many of the ideas discussed in this book were major elements of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, which Kingsbury acknowledges as his inspiration. Seven of us started Psychohistorical Crisis but only four finished it. Two of us had read prior Kingsbury works, and all but one had read Asimov’s Foundation books.

Many of us were intrigued by the idea of psychohistory, and we thought Kingsbury explored it well. This book was full of big ideas and first rate science. The depiction of mathematicians at work seemed genuine. We found this book’s universe to be richer and more organic than Asimov’s was. We had to admit that the basic idea of scientists predicting and guiding man’s fate was not as mind-blowing now as in Asimov’s time, but we liked Psychohistorical Crisis’s fresh take on ethics.

We felt that many of the characters in this book were shallow/cardboard/plastic, and their conversations got a bit tedious. A couple of people felt the big “crisis” at the end fizzled. One person in our group was not interested in the basic premise. A couple of us were too busy with jobs and other distractions to read enough of the book to form an opinion.

Overall we liked Psychohistorical Crisis. One participant mentioned that he would never have read this book if it had not been a Reading Group selection, and he was very glad he did. After the meeting we had a nice dinner at Texas Land & Cattle.

— A. T. Campbell, III