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The Edge of the Knife

H. Beam Piper

Book Overview: 

The Terro-Human Future History is Piper’s detailed account of the next 6000 years of human history. 1942, the year the first fission reactor was constructed, is defined as the year 1 A.E. (Atomic Era). A nuclear war devastates the planet, eventually laying the groundwork for the emergence of a Terran Federation, once humanity goes into space and develops antigravity technology.

The story “The Edge of the Knife” (collected in Empire) occurs slightly before the war, and involves a man who sees flashes of the future. It links many key elements of Piper’s series. (Summary from Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I know about hasn't happened yet."

Weill snatched the cigarette from his mouth to keep from swallowing it. As it was, he choked on a mouthful of smoke and coughed violently, then sat back in the booth-seat, staring speechlessly.

"It started a little over three years ago," Chalmers continued. "Just after New Year's, 1970. I was getting up a series of seminars for some of my postgraduate students on extrapolation of present social and political trends to the middle of the next century, and I began to find that I was getting some very fixed and definite ideas of what the world of 2050 to 2070 would be like. Completely unified world, abolition of all national states under a single world sovereignty, colonies on Mars and Venus, that sort of thing. Some of these ideas didn't seem quite logical; a number of them were complete reversals of present trends, and a lot seemed to depend on arbitrary and unpredictable factors. Mind, this was before the first rocket la. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Part of this prolific author's popular Terra-Human Future History series, the tale "The Edge of the Knife" takes place just prior to the devastating world war that occurs in 1973, wiping out much of humanity and leading to the ascendance of a new world order. The story focuses on a protagonist wh...more

A very brief story about a history professor who has somehow acquired the ability to "remember" the future, but not, sadly, the wisdom to keep references to the same out of his class lectures.
Interesting predictions about the near future (thankfully now the past) as it appeared in the late 50's,...more

The Edge of the Knife has aged somewhat due to divergence from real history, though it's still worth reading.

The protagonist is a university professor named Chalmers who has been teaching his prophecies as historical fact. Everyone thinks he's crazy, until he predicts the assassination of a Calip...more

The Science Fiction Novella, the Knife’s Edge, written by H. Beam Piper, formulated truth when truth was a risk to ones social well being. Piper hid his important message in the passages of Science Fiction Publications; “And I don't read inside-dope magazines, or science fiction. I read carefull...more

This is probably my least favorite of Piper’s works. I felt that it was disjointed. Ended to soon. It lacked the normal wit of Piper, or the drive. The basic premise is that a professor can see the future, and he tries to convince those around him about their impending doom. How far would you go...more

In the distant future of 1973, Professor Chalmers of Blanley University is having a little trouble with his history class. He knows the subject and all his facts are true, the only problem is none of them have happened yet. After a disastrous lesson where he accidently revealed foreknowledge of a...more

I've only just started reading Piper's works, and it does seem to be character based sci-fi, with characters that are realistic, flawed and have stood the test of time. An interesting look at someone given powers to see into the future, and their passive response to it.

1983 grade C-
2018 grade B+

A short story fleshed out enough to give it a satisfactory beginning, middle, conclusion, and about two hours worth of reading. Piper is quite different and rather entertaining when you get out of the Little Fuzzie stories. This one is strictly adult and deals with a cha...more

If you started 'remembering' things that will happen in the future, would people call you crazy? What if something you 'remembered' out loud hadn't happened yet, but then actually came true? How would people react? Would you doubt your own sanity? If you 'remembered' that something bad was about...more

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