A loving homage to Asimov, and dialogue with him--a triumph of galactic-scaled SF that is destined to be recognized as a classic in its own right
Eron Osa had faced the ultimate penalty. Not death, but the removal of his fam. Without the augmentation of his brain by his electronic familiar, he can barely function amidst the bewildering complexities of everyday life on Splendid Wisdom. Here, on the capital world of the galaxy's Second Empire, everyone from the meanest citizen to the ruling Pscholars has depended upon a fam since childhood. Without one, simply navigating the streets and levels of the planetary megalopolis is a paralyzing challenge. Lost along with such everyday survival skills were many of Eron's memories and his professional knowledge. The crime he committed must have been terrible to warrant such a dreadful punishment. If only he could remember what it was!
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Admirers of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, possibly the greatest SF series ever, will be drawn to this oddly titled sequel from the author of the Hugo-nominated Courtship Rite (1982), but they shouldn't get their hopes too high. No one, including Asimov himself in his belated efforts to further milk his cash cow, has succeeded in capturing the breadth, excitement and imaginative scope of the original. Canadian Kingsbury, too, falls short. Nearly as long as the entire Asimov trilogy, this continuation suffers from long-windedness and a surfeit of italics. The author, though, does create a convincing and fresh simulacrum of the world of the 761st century. For a crime he can't remember, Eron Osa, a 30-year-old psychohistorian, must give up his fam, that is, his personal familiar, a device plugged into his brain that immeasurably enhances all aspects of his life, particularly his power to absorb and resolve problems. Members of the Second Galactic Empire populate the Milky Way galaxy of a million worlds, in which the only "aliens" are genetically engineered talking dogs. Some people, not much different from today's humans, behave admirably, while others are addicted to power and war. Women play only peripheral roles in a male-dominated universe. For all its ambitions, this work lacks the great storytelling qualities of Asimov's trilogy and captures only some of its ambience. (Nov. 13)story that appeared in Asimov's SF magazine.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.From Booklist:
Kingsbury continues exploration of the universe of Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels in his own imposing book. Nominally it is the story of Eron Osa, who arrives as a student in the capital of the fifteenth-millennium Galactic Empire. In due course he discovers that the Pscholars' monopoly of psychohistory is more dangerous than helpful to humanity. For that heretical realization, he is condemned to lose his fam, or embedded electronic alter ego. How he overcomes that hindrance and finds enough allies to overturn the orthodox Pscholars is another story, perhaps not as well developed as some might like. The real strength of the somewhat rambling novel lies in all the fascinating characters (e.g., Hyperlord Hahukum Konn, with his flying replica of a B-17, and Frightfulpersons Katana and her daughter Otaria, who live up to their titles) and settings encountered on the way to Osa's becoming savior of the galaxy--not to mention the number of satirical touches Kingsbury scores on history and sex. If not a great novel, then a very good, very absorbing one. Roland Green
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