Agent of Vega and Other Stories by James Schmidt: a review

I used to own a paperback edition of the Gnome Press book with this name. The Baen version is much longer, as the original version had only the first four stories.

Most of the stories in this book involve law enforcement/secret agent types working for the Overgovernment (the government’s name actually varies from story to story, but OG is one of those names and seems like a good description). The main characters are ends-justify-the-means sorts, often with superpowers (telepathy, usually, and sometimes other advantages). On the whole, the stories read like mysteries, but rather exotic mysteries. One story’s an unabashed traditional horror story, which seems a bit odd in this context.

On the whole, the book is mostly fluff; all are the sorts of tales John Campbell liked to use to fill the gaps in Astounding and Analog. A couple, though, deserve mention:

End of the Line watches some custom-bred superhumans break away from their overseers; it’s rather nicely turned. And The Second Night of Summer is a delightful little encounter between a secret agent, her very young friend, and an alien race that’s pretty dangerous.

Fluff, I called these. But interesting fluff. This book provides an opportunity to watch Schmitz develop his strengths, as the book spans a couple decades. (Note: Some of the copyright attributions are clearly wrong; Astounding evolved into Analog in 1960, which isn’t what the page shows.)

Well-written, and fun to read.

This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

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