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The Witches of Karres Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 2005
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About the Author
James H. Schmitz was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1911 of American parents. He spent the years of the First World War in the United States, then went back to Germany to complete his schooling. Aside from several trips to the United States, he lived in Germany until 1938, returning to America with the outbreak of World War II. He sold his first story, "Greenface," to the now-legendary fantasy magazine Unknown Worlds, shortly before Pearl Harbor, but by the time it was published, he was flying with an Army Air Corps group as an aerial photographer in the Southern Pacific Theater. In 1949, he began publishing his "Agent of Vega" series in the leading SF magazine, Astounding (later renamed Analog), and was one of that magazine's most popular contributors over the next three decades, introducing the memorable heroines Telzey Amberdon and Trigger Argee, leading protagonists in his massive "Federation of the Hub" series. He died in 1981.
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In this novel, Captain Pausert is a commercial traveler from Nikkeldepain and the owner of the Venture. He has left his home planet to earn his fortune before marriage to Illyla. They were secretly engaged prior to his departure.
Pausert has had a profitable period on Porlumma, but then he meets a witch of Karres. He defends the slave from her owner, who is trying to punish her for poisoning the cakes. Pausert wins the fight, but is arrested along with the baker. The judge dismisses the case after Pausert buys the witch.
Maleen looks to be about fourteen and has the talent of premoting; i.e., reading the future. She was a slave of Bruth the Baker and now belongs to Pausert. She mentions that she has two sisters on Porlumma.
The Leewit seems to be about six years old and is a slave in a pottery shop. She sits on a high shelf and breaks crockery with a whistle. Pausert offers to buy her and the owner -- urged by his wife -- is very willing to sell her. Then he tells the young witch that he will sue Pausert for everything he has if she breaks anything else.
Goth appears to be about ten and is a slave in an apparel shop. She teleports things around. The owner is slowly going mad after seven contradictory inventories. He is very eager to sell the witch.
In this story, Pausert starts to take the witches to Karres -- their home planet -- about two weeks travel from Porlumma. But various difficulties occur that delay their arrival. First, Goth produces a package of stolen gems and attack ships are moving up rapidly.
The Venture gets away from the pursuers via the Sheewash drive. Of course, Pausert has never heard of this drive, but it is much faster than any other drive known within the Empire. Unluckily, others are after the drive. Of course, it wouldn't do anyone else any good since it is powered by witchery.
Pausert has a talk with Goth about the perils of dishonesty and tells her not to do it again. Later he arranges to ship the gems back to the owner. But Goth does steal again and Pausert spanks her. The battle leaves both contestants wounded, but Goth begins to respect the Captain.
Then they reach Karres in the Iverdahl system. It is easy to spot the witch world since it revolves counter to every other planet in the system. The planet appears deserted, but Maleen explains that the population is rather small.
They land on the field near the only town. Then Pausert meets Toll -- the mother of the young witches -- who looks like an older version of Goth. Much later he meets their father.
This tale really starts becoming interesting when Pausert returns to Nikkeldepain II. Upon landing, he is arrested on various and sundry charges. Then he finds that his fiancee Illyla has married Councilman Onswud. She had changed her mind shortly after his departure.
After leaving Nikkeldepain once more, Pausert gains a crew for the Venture. Goth and The Leewit rejoin him and he hires a navigator and a spacehand. Then they acquire a passenger.
The Witches are not really magic users, but possessors of psionic talents. Yet they work on a higher level than most such talents, usually by merging their powers. Naturally, efforts such as the Sheewash drive take a lot of energy and leave them weak and in need of rest afterward.
This work is a classic of science fiction. The author is also well known for his Telzey and Trigger novels as well as others in the Federation of the Hub universe. Read and enjoy!
Highly recommended for Schmitz fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of interstellar adventure, miscellaneous magics, and personal relationships. Anyone who has not previously read this author's works should start with Agent of Vega.
-Arthur W. Jordin