Books

Short works

Books : reviews

James H. Schmitz.
Agent of Vega.
1960

(read but not reviewed)

Contents

Agent of Vega. 1949
Zone Agent Iliff is called in when Lannai operative Pagadan sends out a call for help for a seemingly trivial problem. A Zone Agent would not normally get involved in a local problem, but Pagadan's appointment is politically very senstitive. Then Iliff discovers Pagadan was right, as he discovers a galatic invasion by the mind-controlling Ceetal seems to be well under way.
The Illusionists. == Space Fear. 1951
Zone Agent Pagadan solves the problem of a planet controlled by an master Illusionist, and also finds time to help Agent-Trainee Hallerock and System Chief Jasse overcome their isolationist tendancies.
The Truth About Cushgar. 1950
Just why did the great Empire of Cushgar surrender to the Zone Agents without a fight?
The Second Night of Summer. 1950
The strange lights near the village presage a devastating alien invasion, unless the Zone Agent can stop it in time.

James H. Schmitz.
The Witches of Karres.
1966

rating : 3 : worth reading

An amusing fantasy, in a rather different style from his Hub stories.

James H. Schmitz.
The Demon Breed.
1969

rating : 2.5 : great stuff

(Magazine version published in two parts as The Tuvela in 1968)

My favourite Schmitz story: Nile Etland has to single-handedly foil a planned invasion of the Hub, by making the attacking Parahuans believe she is one of the legendary all-powerful Tuvelas -- even though no such beings exist. However, arrogant alien invaders are no match for competance, excellent local knowledge, and otters.

James H. Schmitz.
A Pride of Monsters.
1970

(read but not reviewed)

Contents

Lion Loose. 1961
Reetal Destone and Heslet Quillan find themselves trapped in a gigantic space hotel, due to be blown up along with the rest of the guests in six hours, by a well organised gang of criminals. Outgunned a hundred to one, they have to defuse the opposition, and stop them reinforcing. Oh, and also avoid the teleporting alien monster on the loose.
The Searcher. 1966
Private Detectives Danestar Gems and Corvin Wergard are on a covert mission, searching for who is illegally selling alien artefacts from the Unclassified Specimens Depot. Smugglers arrive to collect a valuable communication device, but then the alien owner -- a large powerful hostile purple energy being -- arrives to claim it for itself. Danestar and Wergard find themselves fighting for their lives.
The Winds of Time. 1962
Gefty Rammer has hired his spaceship out to a mysterious businessman and his secretary when they are all flung into a strangekind of space. Gefty discovers one of his passengers, and his cargo, don't come from around here, and is soon enganged in a desperate fight not to get sucked far into the future.
The Pork Chop Tree. 1965
Trigger Argee discovers the beautiful, welcoming trees might be rather more dangerous than they appear.
Greenface. 1943
Hogan Masters sees the small green creature in the woods. It just keeps growing, and seems to be after Masters, but everyone else thinks he has cracked up.

James H. Schmitz.
The Universe Against Her.
1964

(read but not reviewed)

The first two Telzey Amberdon stories.

Contents

Novice. 1962
15 year-old genius Telzey Amberdon discovers she is a xenotelepath when she visits Jontarou with her pet Tick-Tock, and encounters the natives
Undercurrents. 1964
Telzey discovers that someone is trying to murder her roommate, Gonwil Lodis. She must simultaneously save Gonwil, with the help of her father Gilas and the detective Wellan Dasinger, whilst fending off the unwelcome interest of the Psychology Service.

James H. Schmitz.
The Telzey Toy and other stories.
1973

(read but not reviewed)

Four Telzey Amberdon stories; Compulsion also features Trigger Argee.

Contents

The Telzey Toy. == Ti's Toys. 1971
Telzey is abducted and awakes to find she has an identical twin. Ti has made a Martri puppet copy of her ... but which is the real Telzey, and which the copy? But for now that's not important: Ti is up against two Telzeys ... and it's no contest!
Resident Witch. 1970
Wellan Dasinger asks Telzey to help him find a missing person. She discovers he's well hidden, and dying fast, and that there's no time to save him from being murdered by his brother. But she finds an interesting solution.
Compulsion. 1970
Cured of her addiction to the dangerous Siren trees, Trigger nevertheless feels there's an important reason why they should not be destroyed. And her friends the Old Galactics agree. She calls on the Psychology Service for help, and they recommend she contact a young xenotelepath called Telzey Amberdon. What Telzey discovers proves Trigger was right.
Company Planet. 1971
Telzey goes to the biosculpting planet to help her friend Gikkes. But she wonders why her guide's job is to convince everyone to have treatment. While investigating, an incautious psi probe deflected by a yoli gets her into trouble, and she finds herself caught up in a frightening conspiracy.

James H. Schmitz.
The Lion Game.
1973

(read but not reviewed)

Three consecutive Telzey Amberdon stories, packaged as a novel.

Contents

Goblin Night. 1965
On a field trip with fellow students, Telzey discovers a malign psi hunter, who wants her as his next prey
Sleep No More. 1965
Telzey is pursued by a dagen, a fearsome teleporting hunting beast
The Lion Game. 1971
Telzey cooperates with the Psychology Service to solve a series of murders, only to get trapped in a deadly conflict between two rival humanoid factions. She manages to sort everything out in time for her 16th birthday party.

James H. Schmitz.
Legacy (== A Tale of Two Clocks) .
1962

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 25 January 2001

Trigger Argee has been sent by her boss, Holati Tate, to Maccadon, the University Planet, to oversee the plasmoid project. So why are neither Tate nor Professor Mantelish anywhere to be found, and why is Trigger being kept in the dark? And why is Pilch of the Psychology Service so keen to look deep inside her mind? Moreover, Trigger is feeling a strong desire to return to Manon, yet everything seems to be conspiring against letting her leave. But Trigger is not a woman to be dictated to.

The story of how Trigger leaves Maccadon, meets up with Heslet Quillan, and her various adventures before she finally discovers the secret of the plasmoids, is told in Schmitz' great style. A few of the social attitudes might seem a little dated forty years on (although actually rather ahead of their time), but whatever the decade of reading, Trigger is one of Schmitz' great competent heroines.

I remember finding Legacy rather confusing when I first read it, several decades ago, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Rereading it now as part of the republication of the entire Hub stories, it is less confusing -- because I know a lot of the characters already -- but just as much fun.

James H. Schmitz.
Telzey Amberdon.
Baen. 2000

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 11 June 2000

The first of the Baen/Flint Hub reprints consists mainly of Telzey Amberdon stories (all of which except "Poltergeist" have appeared in book form before). Schmitz has long been a favourite author of mine. He has a wonderful line in competent female protagonists -- one of whom is Telzey -- involved in stories of great pacing, set against the huge galaxy spanning civilisation of the Hub. It's great to have these stories back in print. (It's also great to have them in order -- I remember well my confusion in the 70s as I tried to sort this out from the previous books.)

Contents

Novice. 1962
15 year-old genius Telzey Amberdon discovers she is a xenotelepath when she visits Jontarou with her pet Tick-Tock, and encounters the natives
Undercurrents. 1964
Telzey discovers that someone is trying to murder her roommate, Gonwil Lodis. She must simultaneously save Gonwil, with the help of her father Gilas and the detective Wellan Dasinger, whilst fending off the unwelcome interest of the Psychology Service.
Poltergeist. 1971
Telzey meets a man being terrorised by a powerful psi, which soon starts attacking her, too
Goblin Night. 1965
On a field trip with fellow students, Telzey discovers a malign psi hunter, who wants her as his next prey
Sleep No More. 1965
Telzey is pursued by a dagen, a fearsome teleporting hunting beast
The Lion Game. 1971
Telzey cooperates with the Psychology Service to solve a series of murders, only to get trapped in a deadly conflict between two rival humanoid factions. She manages to sort everything out in time for her 16th birthday party.
Blood of Nalakia. == The Vampirate. 1953
A story of the very early Hub
The Star Hyacinths. == The Tangled Web. 1961
Detective Wellan Dasinger and pilot Duomart Mines hunt for valuable salvage gems, whilst evading their various pursuers

James H. Schmitz.
T'nT: Telzey and Trigger.
Baen. 2000

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 21 December 2000

This is the second volume in Baen's reprint series of all the Hub stories, which contains three stories not previously collected. It continues the tales of the young Telzey Amberdon, and introduces us to another one of Schmitz's great competent heroine characters: Trigger Argee. Sometimes together, sometimes alone, but never outnumbered, these two cut a swathe through the bad guys of the Hub worlds.

Contents

The Pork Chop Tree. 1965
Trigger Argee discovers the beautiful, welcoming trees might be rather more dangerous than they appear.
The Telzey Toy. == Ti's Toys. 1971
Telzey is abducted and awakes to find she has an identical twin. Ti has made a Martri puppet copy of her ... but which is the real Telzey, and which the copy? But for now that's not important: Ti is up against two Telzeys ... and it's no contest!
Resident Witch. 1970
Wellan Dasinger asks Telzey to help him find a missing person. She discovers he's well hidden, and dying fast, and that there's no time to save him from being murdered by his brother. But she finds an interesting solution.
Compulsion. 1970
Cured of her addiction to the dangerous Siren trees, Trigger nevertheless feels there's an important reason why they should not be destroyed. And her friends the Old Galactics agree. She calls on the Psychology Service for help, and they recommend she contact a young xenotelepath called Telzey Amberdon. What Telzey discovers proves Trigger was right.
Company Planet. 1971
Telzey goes to the biosculpting planet to help her friend Gikkes. But she wonders why her guide's job is to convince everyone to have treatment. While investigating, an incautious psi probe deflected by a yoli gets her into trouble, and she finds herself caught up in a frightening conspiracy.
Glory Day. 1971
Telzey and Trigger are kidnapped as innocent bystanders in a coup attempt against Casmard. But there's nothing innocent, or bystander-like, about these two.
Child of the Gods. 1972
Telzey is taken over by a wily psi who needs her to investigate a dangerous situation for him -- an illegal mining operation he is running seems to have been subverted. Telzey, helpless under his control, discovers the situation is even more dangerous than anyone suspected, and now she is right in the middle of it.
The Symbiotes. 1972
An eight inch high manikin begs Trigger for help, and she soon finds herself fighting a plot to takeover his homeworld, and up against three very frightening aliens.

James H. Schmitz, ed.
Trigger and Friends.
Baen. 2001

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 25 January 2001

This is the third volume in Baen's reprint series of all the Hub stories, it focuses on Trigger Argee and Heslet Quillan, and is set before the Trigger stories in volume 2. Yet more great Schmitz stories.

Contents

Lion Loose. 1961
Reetal Destone and Heslet Quillan find themselves trapped in a gigantic space hotel, due to be blown up along with the rest of the guests in six hours, by a well organised gang of criminals. Outgunned a hundred to one, they have to defuse the opposition, and stop them reinforcing. Oh, and also avoid the teleporting alien monster on the loose.
Sour Note on Palayata. 1956
The natives on Palayata have an impossible civilisation. Pilch and a Psychology Service team are sent to find out what the X factor is, and whether it poses a threat to the Hub.
Harvest Time. 1958
Precol Commissioner Ramog plots to kill Holati Tate, and claim for himself the discovery of the first Old Galactic artifact. But Tate makes an object lesson of Ramog, which Trigger Argee witnesses with a horrified admiration.
Aura of Immortality. 1974
Holati Tate and Trigger Argee listen in dismay to a newscast of Professor Mantelish describing a new immortality drug he may have discovered. They race to save him before criminals can steal the drug for themselves.
Forget It. == Planet of Forgetting. 1965
[Adapted by Guy Gordon from "Planet of Forgetting", mainly by turning the protagonist into Heslet Quillan.] Heslet Quillan finds himself alone on a strange swamp planet, with no memory of how he got there. As his memory slowly returns, he realises he is trying to save the Sigma File from falling into the hands of the Imperial Rala.
Legacy. == A Tale of Two Clocks. 1962
See Legacy review
Guy Gordon. The Psychology Service: Immune System of the Hub. 2000

James H. Schmitz.
The Hub: Dangerous Territory.
Baen. 2001

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 11 December 2003

This is the fourth volume in Baen's reprint series of all the Hub stories, mostly unconnected, but including my favorite Schmitz story: Demon Breed. Yet more great Schmitz stories of competant humans foiling alien menaces.

Contents

Balanced Ecology. 1965
The diamondwood forest is uneasy, and it has to take drastic steps to keep its ecology balanced against overlogging.
Grandpa. 1955
Cord tries to warn the Plenetary Regent that Grandpa, a large vegetable raft, is not longer safe, but no-one listens. So when it hijacks the crew and turns carnivorous, it's up to him to figure out why.
The Searcher. 1966
Private Detectives Danestar Gems and Corvin Wergard are on a covert mission, searching for who is illegally selling alien artefacts from the Unclassified Specimens Depot. Smugglers arrive to collect a valuable communication device, but then the alien owner -- a large powerful hostile purple energy being -- arrives to claim it for itself. Danestar and Wergard find themselves fighting for their lives.
The Winds of Time. 1962
Gefty Rammer has hired his spaceship out to a mysterious businessman and his secretary when they are all flung into a strangekind of space. Gefty discovers one of his passengers, and his cargo, don't come from around here, and is soon enganged in a desperate fight not to get sucked far into the future.
A Nice Day for Screaming. 1965
The journalist reporting on humankid's most advanced spaceship is caught up in a terrifying encounter in pseudospace, only to discover a rather unflattering explanation, which pleases the Navy greatly.
The Machmen. 1964
The Machmen -- machine augmented humans -- take over a planetary science station. But the local psychologist cum naturalist is still on the loose, and dangerous to them.
The Other Likeness. 1962
The Kalechi breed a number of their kind to be identical to humans, so they can infiltrate the Federation and cause a devastating plague. But they bred too well.
Attitudes. 1969
Azard is banking on the Federation respecting the Malatlo Attitude in order to carry out his plan. But is his own Attitude good enough to fool them?
Trouble Tide. 1965
Dr Nile Etland and Danrich Parrol investigate the mysterious dissapearance of the Sea Beef. Is it related to the death of the sledmen's entire herd of frayas? They then discover something quite remarkable about the frayas' symbiotic lifecycle.
The Demon Breed. == The Tuvela. 1968
See The Demon Breed review

James H. Schmitz.
Agent of Vega and other stories.
Baen. 2001

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 25 December 2002

This is the fifth volume in Baen's reprint series of Schmitz' work. Here we have four "Zone Agents of the Vegan Confederacy" stories -- powerful agents struggling to keep the Confederacy together -- along with some other unconnected short stories. These are typical Schmitz -- ultra-competant heroes, and very little questioning of the ethics of the situations or of the the use of their powers. But the best of all is the great storytelling: you are dropped straight into the middle of the plot, without having to plough through pages of that more modern style of irritating expostition setting up background and context for what's going on. You know the context is there, you feel surrounded by a fully fleshed out three dimensional world, but not because you read pages of plodding prose. Wonderful style.

Contents

Agent of Vega. 1949
Zone Agent Iliff is called in when Lannai operative Pagadan sends out a call for help for a seemingly trivial problem. A Zone Agent would not normally get involved in a local problem, but Pagadan's appointment is politically very senstitive. Then Iliff discovers Pagadan was right, as he discovers a galatic invasion by the mind-controlling Ceetal seems to be well under way.
The Illusionists. == Space Fear. 1951
Zone Agent Pagadan solves the problem of a planet controlled by an master Illusionist, and also finds time to help Agent-Trainee Hallerock and System Chief Jasse overcome their isolationist tendancies.
The Truth About Cushgar. 1950
Just why did the great Empire of Cushgar surrender to the Zone Agents without a fight?
The Second Night of Summer. 1950
The strange lights near the village presage a devastating alien invasion, unless the Zone Agent can stop it in time.
Gone Fishing. 1961
Con man Barney Chard thinks he's on to easy money when he discoveres a physicist hiding a fantastic invention. But the physicist has bigger plans.
Greenface. 1943
Hogan Masters sees the small green creature in the woods. It just keeps growing, and seems to be after Masters, but everyone else thinks he has cracked up.
The Custodians. 1968
The Rilf mercenaries think the University asteroid will make a good landing stage before they move on to Earth, and expect an easy take-over. But there's more to the asteroid than meets the eye.
The Beacon to Elsewhere. 1963
Several kilos of incredbly dangerous YM-400 have been stolen. The Overgovernment wants it back, but the Terran Freeholders have their own plans for it. Neither side appreciates the true danger, however.
The End of the Line. 1951
The Exploration Crew hope they have escaped the Central Government and its Dominators. But does CG have one more trick up its sleeve?
Watch the Sky. 1962
The old Geest gun is key to their plan for getting investment in their planet. But Earth government doesn't fall for the hoax. Then they discover where the gun really came from.
Rogue Psi. 1962
The race is on for the diex energy machine. The normal humans can use it to trap the Rogue Psi, or he can use it to take over the entire Earth.

James H. Schmitz.
Eternal Frontier.
Baen. 2002

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 27 May 2007

This is the sixth volume in Baen's reprint series of Schmitz' work: all the remaining miscellaneous works, many of them out of print for decades, not all SF, but (nearly) all in Schmitz' great style. The editors classify the stories into four groups: "Adventures in Time and Space" (classic Schmitz SF), "Homo Excelsior" (supermen), "Dark Visions" (downbeat endings), and "Time for Crime" (crime stories, not all SF). The conclusion is Schmitz fourth novel: The Eternal Frontiers.

Contents

These Are the Arts. 1962
Hugh Grover is suspicious of the Galcom craze, and isolates himself until it is past. Then he discovers that his worst fears about its effect are true.
We Don't Want Any Trouble. 1953
The aliens don't want any trouble, and the humans are going to have to be very careful to ensure they don't get any. But that might not be enough.
Spacemaster. 1965
Haddan and friends tried to escape their orbital city, ruled by the genocidal Spacemasters, and find a planet where they can live free. But they are caught, and Haddan discovers the real reason behind the Spacemasters' behaviour.
One Step Ahead. 1974
The Programmed Corps have been designed to fight the alien Skander. But the League itself has many internal rivalries, each wanting to hijack the Corps to its own ends. So there is a lot of security protecting the soldiers. But there's always someone one step ahead.
The Big Terrarium. 1957
A random group of people are snatched from Earth, and placed in a zoo-like setting, for the amusement of their viewers. But their environment isn't being kept stable, and they are enclosed with a hostile alien.
Summer Guests. 1959
The storm brings in some pixie-like creatures in need of aid. Mel tries to help them, but they aren't necessarily friendly.
Captives of the Thieve-Star. 1951
Chanook, Imperial Secret Service applicant, and his diminutive wife Peer, daughter of the notorious space-rat thief Santis, find themselves in a load of trouble when they discover an abandoned space ship and try to salvage it. [An early prototype of The Witches of Karres.]
Caretaker. 1953
Hulman has been stranded on Cresgyth, protecting the native human population from the encroaching blue worm-like creatures. But when he is rediscovered, the crew make a surprising discovery about these two native species.
Left Hand, Right Hand. 1962
Troy Gordon and his fellow humans have been captured far from earth by the hostile Hammerheads, who are preparing to invade Earth. His fellow humans are cooperating with the aliens to save their own lives, so he embarks on a desperate plan to escape and warn home. But are his fellows as weak and soft as he thinks?
The Ties of Earth. 1955
Commanger discovers he has special powers when a group protecting the Earth from people like him try to recruit him, and then to kill him. Who is more dangerous?
The Altruist. 1952
Why is "two per cent normal loss" considered normal?
Oneness. 1963
The rebel Mars Convicts want to open negotiations with Earth, but Earth is under the tyrannical rule of the Directors' Machine. Their philosophy of Oneness makes negotiation easier.
Just Curious. 1968
Litton can become any other person for five minutes -- which makes him the ultimate spy. But when one of his victims discovers him, he's forced to become someone he would rather not.
Would You?. 1969
The chair promises one chance to change the past. What would you do?
Clean Slate. 1964
Hair, one of the original Big Four, but now in disgrace, is put in charge of the ACCED project. He is disturbed to find that it is not going well, and is sending children psychotic, but there seems to be no politically expedient way to shut it down. (This is probably the least Schmitz-like style story in the bunch, with a large amount of stodgy info-dumping.)
Crime Buff. 1973
Jeff Clary, desperate criminal on the run, takes Brooke Cameron hostage. He's amazed when she keeps trying to help him -- and then she tells him that she wants to escape her own criminal family.
Ham Sandwich. 1963
Dr Ormond runs the Total Insight seminars, getting groups of gullible people to donate money in the hope of improving their psychic powers. Why don't the police close down his operation?
Where the Time Went. 1968
Where does all that time go?
An Incident on Route 12. 1962
A desperate criminal hijacks a car to escape the police, but then he discovers who he has hijacked it from...
Swift Completion. 1962
Redfern discovers that his wife knows that he is trying to kill her, and has taken precautions. But then his discovers a way to thwart her countermeasures, with the help of the Postal Service.
Faddist. 1966
Herman loves his wife Elaine, except for the fact that she will let him eat only healthfoods. Then she goes away for a meeting, and he orders in cream cakes. But...
The Eternal Frontiers. 1973
Various different human factions are trying to discover the dangerous secret of Kulkoor, so that they can exploit its valuable mining potential. It appears that very elusive natives don't want them there. (A rather slight novel, but in great Schmitz style, starting with an aircar battle, full of competent, if rather bloodthirsty, protagonists, and working up to a crescendo.)