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Crescent Blues Book ViewsAce Books (Paperback), ASIN 0441008011

Boris Karloff, Vincent Price -- sometimes, for reasons unknown, the old classics seem to be the most fun. The same occasionally happens with old science fiction too. H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories prove the point.

Book: h beam piper, the complete paratime
The stories run the gamut from Piper's first Paratime adventure, "He Walked Around the Horses" (in which an 1809 English envoy finds himself transported to a parallel timeline where Napoleon remained a common soldier) to the novel Lord Kalvan of Neverwhen. However, most of the stories focus on Verkan Vall, the premier operative in parallel time.

Piper introduced Verkan in "Police Operation," in which Verkan must kill or capture a deadly predator transported to 20th century Earth, without alerting the world to alternative timelines to boot. In "The Last Enemy," Verkan becomes involved in the breakdown of a technologically advanced society which discovered a way of talking to the dead. Subsequently, he investigates his own society and illegal trafficking between timelines ("Time Crime"). The final short, "Temple Trouble," finds Verkan and friends re-establishing timeline trade through local temples in a timeline where two vastly different religions engage in bloody conflict.

The Complete Paratime ends with the chronicles of Lord Kalvan of Neverwhen. This involved novel, the best story in the book, follows the fortunes of state trooper Calvin Morrison after he accidentally gets transported to a different timeline. Will Calvin's abilities, in the new timeline, to invent things like paper and gunpowder cause the Paratime police headaches or prove a blessing to a beleaguered nation?

The Paratime series, often cited as being the best of Piper's work, retains the power to enthrall. Hard to put down, even though the concepts sometimes seem a bit tricky to grasp, this very classic work with its huge space opera feel definitely satisfies oldlings like me. It should prove entertaining for a few younglings too.

Stephen Smith

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