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The Witches of Karres
James H. Schmitz
Victor Gollancz SF Collectors' Edition, 344 pages

The Witches of Karres
James H. Schmitz
James H. Schmitz was born in Germany in 1911 of American parents. When World War I broke out, they moved back to the United States. After it ended, they returned to Germany where his father worked for an American company. James went to school in Germany, then returned to Chicago in 1930 to go to business school and finally switched to a correspondence course in journalism. With no jobs because of the Depression, he returned to Germany to work with his father's company. With Hitler marching into Austria and Czechoslovakia, he and the family moved to St. Paul, then to Los Angeles. In WWII he joined the Army Air Force for 3 years, after which he settled in the Los Angeles area. He died in 1981.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Telzey Amberdon
James H. Schmitz Tribute Site
Plot Summary, Cover Art
James H. Schmitz Catalogue

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

The Witches of Karres is an old-fashioned science-fantasy space opera, written with a light, sure touch and with Schmitz's distinctive panache. This is fizzy, sparkly entertainment -- the plot goes tripping and skipping across the Galaxy, via some rather appalling transportation devices (such as the well-named Sheewash drive and the dread Egger Route). Capt. Pausert and the lively young witch-sisters -- Maleen, the Leewit & Goth -- face pirate attacks, sneering Sirians, sneaky spies, trumped-up legal charges, a corrupt, beautifully slinky shipyard owner with a taste for torture, a mighty Sheem Assassin robot, Worm Weather, and a super-powerful (but reality-impaired) game-playing vatch, among other challenges. Slow-paced action is not a problem here. The plot is preposterous, but unfolds like a wonderfully lucid dream... suddenly, you're there, with another new klatha PSI-superpower... And the characters are so nice -- even the villains get a second, or even a third chance to redeem themselves, and most do. And by nice I don't mean sticky-sweet, but the lovely warm, fuzzy feeling you'll get as you read Witches.

The Witches of Karres is a true light classic of the genre, and if you haven't read it yet (or in awhile), you should. It's remarkably fresh for a story that's over a half-century old -- "recommended for frivolous relaxation. Abandon moral uplift, all ye who enter here." -- Dave Langford. For the young, and young-of-heart.

I have fond memories of The Witches of Karres, but it turns out I'd only read the much-reprinted 1949 novellette -- it was a real treat to discover I'd never actually read the 1966 novel (the novellette became the first two chapters of the novel).

This Gollancz edition is a handsome trade paperback, with the familiar chrome-yellow plastic-coated cover (that feels so nice when you stroke it...) and hardback-quality paper. The text is apparently photo-reproduced from an earlier edition. My copy has some rather blurry pages, so you may want to scan through the ones on the shelf at your bookstore.

There's a small boom in Schmitz reissues going on, I'm happy to say -- Baen is reprinting his excellent Telzey & Trigger stories, and plans a US paperback reissue of The Witches of Karres in 2001. NESFA has a nice one-volume Best of Schmitz collection It's good to see Schmitz's best work back in print.

Copyright © 2001 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Usenet, "Under the Covers", Infinity-Plus, Dark Planet, and SF Site. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. More of his reviews are posted at .

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