Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The H. Beam Piper Megapack by H. Beam Piper

Nearly his complete works
The publisher Wildside Press has produced an extensive line of inexpensive ebook collections of genre fiction resurrected from the pages of vintage pulp fiction magazines. Their Megapack series includes dozens of science fiction titles, including both multi-author anthologies and collections devoted to individual authors. Among those featured in the latter category is H. Beam Piper, an exceptional sci-fi author who was active from the late 1940s until his death in 1960. The H. Beam Piper Megapack is essentially a complete works collection of Piper’s writings up to 1963 (several of his works were published posthumously). His works published after that date were likely omitted due to copyright restrictions. Rather than list what’s in the Megapack, it’s quicker just to state what is missing: Piper’s novels The Other Human Race (a.k.a. Fuzzy Sapiens) and Fuzzies and Other People, from his Fuzzies series; his novellas Gunpowder God and Down Styphon!, which were eventually combined into a novel, Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen; and his novel First Cycle, which was completed posthumously by another author and published in the early 1980s.

What this Megapack does include is a lot of fantastic science fiction. Piper is a master at creating well-thought-out worlds rich in intricate detail. His two main personal interests were collecting firearms and libertarian politics, so naturally many of his stories deal with political or military matters. Piper often crafts Byzantine interplanetary bureaucracies just to prove a point about democracy vs. autocracy or capitalism vs. socialism, for example, but in the process he never fails to fully flesh out the social, cultural, religious, and economic dimensions of his fictional worlds as well.

Piper published two major science fiction series. The first is the Paratime series, which was briefly introduced in his 1948 story “He Walked Around the Horses,” but really gets into full swing with the novella Police Operation, published later that year. In this fictional universe, the Paratime Police patrol the multitude of alternate timelines that result from myriad deviations in historical events. Time Crime, Genesis, and Last Enemy are other fine entries in this series. Piper’s other series is his Terro-Human Future History, which chronicles the future of mankind from the present Atomic Age to over 300 centuries in the future. Piper mapped out a complex chronology of mankind’s interstellar diaspora, which he revealed in an essay, “The Future History,” published in the fanzine Zenith (not available in this Megapack, but you can find it for free online). The Future History stories are only loosely connected, so they can be enjoyed individually or as part of the grand whole. Among his best works are Omnilingual and Little Fuzzy, the latter being the first of a trilogy of Fuzzies novels that are a subset of the Future History timeline.

The H. Beam Piper Megapack also includes two non-science fiction works by Piper: Murder in the Gunroom, a mystery novel; and Rebel Raider, a nonfiction biographical narrative of Confederate commander John Singleton Mosby; the latter of which is actually quite entertaining. By giving this collection a five-star rating, I don’t mean to imply that every selection is a masterpiece. In fact, Murder in the Gunroom, A Slave Is a Slave, Day of the Moron, and The Keeper are not very good, and some other selections are merely passable. Overall, however, if you are going to purchase a retrospective collection of a science fiction writer’s work, this is a great one to buy. Following the career trajectory of Piper’s visionary adventures is a wild and enjoyable ride.

Stories in this collection
(Many of the works in this collection have been reviewed individually. Click on titles below.)
Time and Time Again
He Walked Around the Horses 

Police Operation

The Mercenaries 

Last Enemy 

Flight from Tomorrow 

Operation R.S.V.P. 


Temple Trouble 


Day of the Moron 

Uller Uprising 


The Return 

Time Crime 


The Edge of the Knife

The Keeper 

Lone Star Planet

Graveyard of Dreams 

Ministry of Disturbance

Hunter Patrol

Crossroads of Destiny

The Answer 

Oomphel in the Sky

Four-Day Planet 


Little Fuzzy

A Slave is a Slave
Space Viking 
The Cosmic Computer
Rebel Raider 
Murder in the Gunroom

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