Dani Zweig's Belated Reviews : archive

Belated Reviews #2: James H Schmitz

James Schmitz wrote from the forties to the seventies. He is noted for his use of strong female characters in a time when this was uncommon in sf. The milieus in which these characters act tend to be somewhat anarchic (high-tech) societies overseen by high-handed but generally benign governments. They're not designed to stand much analysis, and serve primarily as stage settings. The strengths of his novels and short stories are in interesting characters and well-told yarns. Perhaps for this reason, much of his writing has stood up well over the years.

"The Witches of Karres" (****) is a light space fantasy, and is unlike his other books. Pausert, a merchant space captain, impulsively rescues a child from a beating, only to discover that it is the most expensive impulse he has ever had. She and her sisters are from the prohibited world of Karres, and in undertaking to get them home, he finds himself up to his endangered neck in spies, pirates, monsters, elementals, and extra-dimensional nogoodniks. It's a delightful book. Schmitz apparently wrote a sequel, "Venture of Karres", but the manuscript was lost when he moved.

"Agent of Vega" (***) is a fixup space opera, and consists of linked stories about Zone Agents. Zone Agents are roving trouble-shooters for a secretive governmental agency. Their job is to unobtrusively take care of awkwardnesses such as genocidal pirates and invading aliens from other galaxies. Good fun.

"The Lion Game" (**) features Telzey Amberdon, a teen-aged psi of remarkable power, who is accidentally enmeshed in the feuding of high-psi humanoids who are contemplating an invasion of the Hub (the interstellar federation in which much of Schmitz's work is set). Shorter stories following this character make up "The Universe Against Her" (**) and "The Telzey Toy" (*). Any of these can be read independently.

Not featuring Telzey, but set in the same milieu, are "Legacy" (*+), also titled "A Tale of Two Clocks", and "The Demon Breed" (**). The latter is about a woman who must prevent an impending invasion by pretending to be superhuman. (Schmitz seems to have had a fondness for impending alien invasions.)

%A Schmitz, James H.
%T The Witches of Karres
%T Agent of Vega
%T The Lion Game
%T The Universe Against Her
%T The Telzey Toy
%T Legacy
%T The Demon Breed


Standard introduction and disclaimer for Belated Reviews

Dani Zweig
'Tis with our judgements as our watches, none
Go alike, yet each believes his own
   --Alexander Pope