The Complete Paratime
by H. Beam Piper
A book review by Mark L. Olson
Ace, 2001, 424 pp, $15.00
Ace has brought out a trade paperback edition of all of H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories. Piper's Paratime is probably the best of the alternate histories. He imagines a world where the human race, facing resource exhaustion on Earth invents travel to alternate Earths rather than into space. People trade with worlds where history happened differently and especially to worlds where the human race never evolved.
Mankind being what it is, criminals operate in these alternate worlds also, and where there are criminals, there must be police. The Paratime stories are mostly about the Paratime Police who exist not so much to guard the more primitive peoples of the outworlds from the depredations of paratime criminals, as to prevent the paratimer's criminals from giving away the secret that an advanced people who live among us and exploit us.
The stories come in two groups: the Paratime Police stories and the Lord Kalvan story. The best of the Paratime Police stories are the first "He Walked Around the Horses" and the last, "Last Enemy." The novel, Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, (one of my favorite SF novels) is at least their equal.
When Piper killed himself he was at the height of his powers as a writer. Reading these stories, one can see what a terrible loss it was for SF. Ace deserves great credit for reissuing them.
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