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Marilee J. Layman

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10:59 pm: The Complete Paratime by H. Beam Piper
Charlie Stross mentioned this book as inspiration for the Merchant Princes books. Having read those and now this, I can see where that comes from. This book happened to be second to read on my piles, so when Charlie mentioned it, I just started it first.

The book is rather strangely constructed, no influence from Piper. Clearly the first section, the non-Kalvan stories, was originally printed alone. Then the Kalvan novellas were printed alone. So this book has an Introduction that has only the first set in the table of content and a single line addition that the second set was added to the first set.

The Introduction is by John F. Carr and I found it to be stilted and rather patronizing. I enjoyed the info about Piper, but most of the info he included about the stories came word-for-word from the stories.

All of the book is about Paratime -- a set of timelines where only one group of people can move between them. The Paratime Police have to take care of a lot of problems in the first set.

In the Lord Kalvan stories, the Paratime Police are only in small places. Kalvan is actually a near-our-time sheriff who gets caught in the method of changing timelines and dropped in someplace that he didn't know, but was smart enough to manage to fit in, and to help the people he meets (primarily because of the history he learned in school).

These stories were written long ago and everybody smokes something all the time and the adults are "men" and "girls." They were interesting stories, but I did feel a bit like I was looking back in time.

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From:autopope
Date:March 19th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
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Did you spot the political subtexts?

The Paratime Police from the prime timeline are basically a colonial police authority, complete with political officers. Their job is to stop the natives (of other time lines) from getting uppity about their exploitation. There's a large larding of "strength makes right" behind it, plus glossed-over slavery in the background.
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From:fledgist
Date:March 19th, 2010 11:19 am (UTC)
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This is also the subtext of Uller Uprising, the 'Indian Mutiny' novel Piper wrote. The oily colonials who didn't appreciate all that their oppressors were doing for them I found alternately amusing and annoying.
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From:mjlayman
Date:March 19th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
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I wouldn't call it subtext, Vall says specifically that they have to keep people from the other timelines from knowing about them. The slavery is very obvious in one of the regular paratime stories, and somwhat in the background of the Kalvan story.
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From:fledgist
Date:March 19th, 2010 11:22 am (UTC)
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Technical point: Calvin was a Pennsylvania State patrolman from the1950s who gets swapped from our timeline to the one in which Indo-Europeans went east rather than west and colonised the Americas.
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From:mjlayman
Date:March 19th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure that's actually our timeline. I didn't see anything that was sufficiently specific. But the direction of the Aryan-Europeans went was definitely there.
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