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Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen by H. Beam Piper

Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (1965)

by H. Beam Piper

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4081226,080 (4.01)28
  1. 10
    Lest darkness fall by L. Sprague de Camp (DWWilkin)
    DWWilkin: The best story of Temporal Displacement
  2. 00
    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain (DWWilkin)
    DWWilkin: One of the first time travel stories
  3. 00
    Great Kings' War by Roland J. Green (DWWilkin)
    DWWilkin: The continuation of the Saga
  4. 01
    The Cross-Time Engineer by Leo A. Frankowski (DWWilkin)
    DWWilkin: A plot that has a basis in Lord Kalvan

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» See also 28 mentions

English (10)  Italian (2)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
My reaction to reading this novel in 2002.

This was a fairly engaging book.

Its battle sequences were clearer than the action sequences of some of the Paratime stories in Piper’s Paratime. I didn’t really try to keep track of the corresponding geographical locations in our world as Lord Kalvan aka Calvin Morrison of the Pennsylvania State Police builds an empire along this alternate version of the Atlantic coast of America. (Piper does, at one point, give a geographical listing which would make such a reconstruction at least partially possible though no maps are given. I kept thinking I was missing some in-jokes like some of the battle sites were fought on the site of American Civil War or Revolutionary War sites. I suspect Nostor is the same as Georgia since there is a song called “Marching Through Nostor” which sounds suspiciously like “Marching Through Georgia” from our world.)

While this is certainly far from the first work of military sf or even, probably (though I don’t know for sure), the first sf work where a man displaced from his time or dimension builds an empire with his technological and historical knowledge, I suspect it was influential on Piper’s friend Jerry Pournelle and others.

The book comes off as a more cynical version of L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall. Its protagonist prevents the decay of a society and introduces democracy and other things. Lord Kalvan builds an empire amongst medieval style states and introduces religious war, abides torture, suggests executing enemy priests at the mouths of cannons a la the British during the Sepoy Rebellion (and an awful pun is made about “cannon-ized martyrs”), institutes auto de fes and a secret police.

In Kalvan’s defense, he is taking steps to wipe out the oppressive Styphon’s House cult which has a gunpowder monopoly before he arrives and modernize his new home. I like Piper’s observations that governments’ decisions are only ratified on the battlefield, that states borrow time on credit and have to pay via war. It’s obvious Piper knew a lot about warfare, particularly the wars of Gustavus Adolphus which form so much of an inspiration. I kept thinking that many of the battles were modeled on historical ones, but am unsure (though Adolphus’ Battle of Lutzen is mentioned in connection with Kalvan’s Battle of Fyk) of which ones exactly.

Of course, there is a lot of wish fulfillment here. Kalvan gets to use his historical knowledge to build an Empire, knows the use as well as the theory of edged weapons, and marry a princess. And, of course, he learns the language implausibly fast. I found that a flaw in the novel (though a flaw of convention).

The other one was the description, by Paratime Cop Verkan Vall, of Kalvan as a genius. If he was such a genius and liked soldiering, why didn’t he stay in the U.S. Army (he’s a veteran of the Korean War) rather than become a policeman?

Piper clearly sides with the great man theory of history in this novel. ( )
  RandyStafford | Feb 3, 2014 |
To start I love this book. What I enjoy the most is the demonstration of how an individual might influence the world around him. Calvin Morrison is thrown into an alternate time-line, "Aryan Trans-Pacific", and has to deal with a seventeenth century society. So much to do, so little time!
I'm really so sorry that Piper was taken from us so quickly. Not the best decision by a mind that was otherwise so clear. Well if I ever get the Chrono-mobile up and running, this is one of the calls I plan to make!
I noted reading this 4 times, but it's like Forester's "The Gun", you can't put it down once opened! ( )
  DinadansFriend | Nov 9, 2013 |
Intrigante romanzo di fantascienza basato sull’idea degli universi paralleli. Un poliziotto della Pennsylvania si trova scagliato in una realtà alternativa in cui l’america è dominata da una cultura feudale. Grazie alla sua conoscenza superiore diventa un potente re, ma la polizia paratemporale che vigila sugli spostamenti accidentali tra le dimensioni è sulle sue tracce… ( )
  Zeruhur | May 26, 2012 |
Intrigante romanzo di fantascienza basato sull’idea degli universi paralleli. Un poliziotto della Pennsylvania si trova scagliato in una realtà alternativa in cui l’america è dominata da una cultura feudale. Grazie alla sua conoscenza superiore diventa un potente re, ma la polizia paratemporale che vigila sugli spostamenti accidentali tra le dimensioni è sulle sue tracce… ( )
  Zeruhur | May 26, 2012 |
Rating: 4.9* of five

The Book Report: It has been said since there were people to say it that you have to leave home to find yourself. It was never more truly said than with Corporal Calvin Morrison, Pennsylvania State Police. He had to leave Earth as he knew it in order to feel at home at last.

Calvin, you see, ran afoul of a glitch in an alien (though still Earthly) technology, was swept into a temporal conveyor, and despite being thrust into a unique environment, still managed to defend himself against a fellow cop's energy weapon (versus Calvin's .38 revolver), and escape from the unknown but self-evident threat of that weird place.

But where in the world was he? It looks like the same spot he just left, only...not.

He comes to discover that he's traveled laterally in timespace, he's in the same geography as the Pennsylvania he left, but the people in this place aren't like him in culture or language. They're early-Renaissance level of technology, polytheistic Aryans from Asia. And their kingdom, Hostigos, is about to be swatted like a mosquito by the Big Baddies: the priests of the House of Styphon, the Gunpowder God. Thus does Calvin morph into Kalvan, the war leader, the bringer of miracles, the architect of a complete shift in this world's future history.

Now remember that alien-but-Earthly technology? Those Earthlings are from a different time-stream from thee and me, and from the Hostigos (called “Aryan-Transpacific” which specifies the direction of the ancient migration) time-stream. They developed high technology long before we did, and consequently used up the resources of their own Earth before we have. The Paratime Secret, which is the existence of aliens who can't be told from the natives, is policed by the Paratime Police, now headed by Verkan Vall, whose observation of Kalvan was supposed to be an elimination until some bright academic realized Kalvan was a rare case of a man out of time who was IN his new element, more so than he was in his native time-stream.

And so is born the Kalvan Subsector, a set of adjacent time-streams that define a new direction in history. It's a priceless chance to see how one exceptional individual can change the course of the world.

My Review: I bought my first copy of this book, published in 1965, from The Book Stall on Burnet Road in Austin, Texas, in 1970. It was a dime, and my mama blew a fuse. She had given me the dime to buy two National Geographics, and was furious I chose mind-rot over edification. As a result of this tantrum on her part, I treasured that little book until it finally and definitively disintegrated in 2006.

I loved the parallel universes in the book. I eagerly looked into strangers' faces, hoping one of them would be a Paracop and whisk me away from the life I didn't much like into a romantic, exciting life hopping the time-streams. (Not long after this, I encountered The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock, and my fate was sealed...I was a chrononaut/Paracop Without Portfolio, and still am.)

I loved every pulpy, overheated sentence of the book. I said things like “yesterday at the latest” and “Dralm dammit” so often that Mama finally blew a fuse and took the book away. I didn't know then, though I strongly suspected it, that Piper was a crappy writer with a gift for the cliché. But hell, who gives the ass of a rat when you're swept away into a world different from and better than your own?

I feel the same way today. It's just that, at mumblety-two, I know it's not good writing. But I still don't care, if the story can sweep my considerable intellectual and physical avoirdupois off my aching, elderly feet. ( )
3 vote richardderus | Mar 11, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
H. Beam Piperprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maitz, DonCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roediger, Susi-MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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First words
Tortha Karf, Chief of Paratime Police, told himself to stop fretting.
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Disambiguation notice
Originally serialized in Analog as Gunpowder God; the book (with additional material) was published as Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen and (at least once) published as Gunpowder God. However, do not combine it with the non-series sequel Gunpowder God by John F. Carr.
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Book description
The Paratime Police patrolled the vast number of alternate time-dimensions. Their aim was to keep the existence of the alternate Earths a secret and prevent these Earths from mixing and destroying each other.
But the Time Police made mistakes sometimes and they made a big one when a seemingly ordinary Pennsylvania State Trooper named Calvin Morrison from the Fourth Level, Europe-American, Hispano-Columbian subsector, was accidently switched into the Aryan Transpacific sector, Styphon's House subsector.
In just a few weeks, MOrrison was being hailed as Lord Kalvan, and was masterminding a campaign that could blow the whole Paratime secret sky-high.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441490530, Mass Market Paperback)

The last and best of the Paratime stories.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:54 -0400)

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