by H. Beam Piper



424pp/$15.00/March 2001

The Complete Paratime
Cover by Dave Dorman

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

There are many names which evoke the "Golden Age of Science Fiction."  In many cases, these authors have not had their works in print for many years.  While their names are spoken in hushed tones, their works aren't read, and when they are, they appear dated and cliché.  Recently, Ace Books has been republishing some of H. Beam Piper's most popular stories in complete editions.  They began with The Complete Fuzzies and have continued with The Complete Paratime.

The CompleteParatime is an omnibus which collects the previously published Paratime and Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen.  The former was a collection of five short stories, four of which are set in the same universe.  The fifth ("He Walked Around the Horses") is unrelated except thematically.  Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen is a fix-up novel made up of stories such as "The Gunpowder God" and "Down Styphon."

The stories which form Paratime each build on the information Piper has presented in the earlier tales.  He provides brief views and hints of the home world throughout the stories.  This is done in a manner which makes it clear that Piiper has a more full idea of how the world is structured than he needs to show in the stories.  Nevertheless, the clues, from the scan of Verkan Vall's blood in "Police Operation" to the discussion of guns in "Temple Trouble" show the civilization Verkan Vall comes from.

The short stories are written to show how the Paratime Police function.  Verkan Vall is given the job of ensuring the integrity of the various timelines and dimensions, or levels.  He begins by tracking down a Venusian nighthound in a world which has not yet achieved space travel.  As he continues his investigations and assignments, the role of the police becomes more defined, eventually leading to his incorporation of the novel which forms the second half of The Complete Paratime.

Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen tells the story of Pennsylvania State Trooper Calvin Morrison, who is mysteriously whisked away to another level where he becomes Lord Kalvan, a great warlord.  This novel also shows a slightly darker side of the Paratime Police, as Verkan Vall is sent to either return Morrison to his own timeline or kill him.  While this does not necessarily jibe with the typical actions of heroes in science fiction novels, it is entirely in keeping with the scenario Piper has created.

As previously mentioned, Piper's writing does not feel dated or clichéd.  His characters, while beyond two dimensions, don't always manage to seem completely rounded.  They, particularly the figures who form the Paratime Police, have their specific roles to fulfill.  While they can, on occasion, move beyond those roles, their tasks too often dictate their characteristics.

He Walked Around the Horses   Police Operation
Last Enemy   Time Crime
Temple Trouble   Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen

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