Lord Kalvan Otherwhen Mass Market Paperback – Jul 1982
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Piper explores the ramifications of alternate universes and parallel time lines, and makes good use of his knowledge of Renaissance military science in crafting a fast moving, entertaining novella. He should have written a novel.
The two novelettes were assembled into a paperback novel, _Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen_ (1965). It's a good novel, but I can't help but feel that it is a bit incomplete. There are enough loose ends hanging at the close of the work to make me suspect that a third novelette was planned but never written.
The Lord Kalvan stories were part of a larger series of stories that appeared over the years in _Astounding/Analog_ called the Paratime Patrol stories. They involved an undercover police force that patrols alternate history timelines to squash skulduggery among them. Most of these stories were told from the point of view of the Paratime cops. The Lord Kalvan stories are told mostly from the point of view of Calvin Morrison, a member of the Pennsylvania State Police who is accidently snatched from our own timeline into an alternate history in which America has been settled by the Aryan races who migrated east instead of west. He begins to rise rapidly in this timeline. But the Paratime cops fear that they may have to kill him.
In the anthology, _The Good Old Stuff_ (1998), Gardner Dozois argues that while _Lord Kalvan_ was not Piper's best book, it was "his most _entertaining_ book" (305). This is a fair assessment. It seems incredible that Piper could entertain at a time when he was wrestling with his personal demons, but he did. Give this book your attention.
Perhaps the setting of this story prejudices me in its favor. I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Everything in this story occurs in North Central Pennsylvania, which has some of the most beautiful scenery in the lower 48 states. It is perfect territory for the type of warfare that Piper describes.
The story follows Pennsylvania State Trooper Calvin Morrison, who wakes after an accident to find himself in familiar territory, but disturbingly different. Everyone speaks a language he never heard. There is a piece of trouble and Calvin decides to help. Calvin awakes in what seems to be a castle. By coincidence, he has 'saved' the local princess. As he recovers and learns the odd language, Calvin becomes Kalvan. And, finds that his new friends are about to be conquered by some forces to the North. Somehow, the religious order that controls the production of gunpowder, and worships Styphon, is supplying the enemies of his friends and not supplying his friends with gunpowder. Kalvan applies some personal knowledge to make gunpowder. What follows is spell-binding.
Calvin/Kalvan has, somehow, slipped into a parallel time line. The result is unexpected by the only folks who know how to move from time line to time line.
Read the story for the sheer fun. Or, read the story for the philosophic questions that it raises. Either way, I enjoyed the story and recommend it strongly.