Reviewed by Steven H Silver
James Schmitzs The Witches of Karres is an old-fashioned space opera with one major difference. Rather than rely on superscience to achieve victory, the hero, Captain Pausert of Nikkeldepain, finds himself using the mystical powers of the witches of the rogue planet Karres to defeat his enemies.
Pausert begins his adventure by rescuing three young girls from slavery. As they escape, he discovers that the sisters are witches of Karres, a legendary planet whose inhabitants seem to have fantastic mental powers. Arriving at his home world, Pausert discovers that his fiancée has left him and he has been declared an outlaw for the events surrounding his rescue of the witches. Pausert and one of the witches, Goth, escape to the far side of the Empire to make their own way in the galaxy.
The novel traces Pauserts training at the hands of Goth as well as their battles against the forces of evil. By the time they are victorious, Pausert and Goth have traveled through space and time, met pirates and cross-dimensional beings, and have come up against all the events and characters which typify space opera. Although Schmitz ends the novel with a perfect scenario for additional volumes about Captain Pausert, The Witches of Karres stands on its own and has no sequels.
Characterization is not an important part of The Witches of Karres, and Schmitzs characters dont show a whole lot of individuality. Instead, Schmitz focuses his attention of the plotting, placing his characters in one danger after another. Because of this, The Witches of Karres frequently has the feel of being a Saturday afternoon serial where the protagonists find themselves in progressively worse situations until they finally manage to win through.
Schmitz does a wonderful job of piling idea upon idea, with the result that Pasuert and Goth have a wide variety of tools and abilities to use against an equally wide variety of adversaries. The Witches of Karres is a short novel and many of these ideas are not fully explored, but simply tossed off as a quick solution or hurdle to be overcome.
In many ways, The Witches of Karres is reminiscent of the universe later created by George Lucas for the Star Wars series. It is inhabited mostly by humans with some aliens, there is an empire, pirates, and a mystical force which permeates the universe which can only be tapped by people who are trained in its use. While The Witches of Karres is not as polished as Lucass creation, it should appeal to anyone who is a fan of Star Wars.