Read The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz Free Online

Ebook The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz read! Book Title: The Witches of Karres
The author of the book: James H. Schmitz
Edition: Ace Books
Date of issue: 1968
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 385 KB
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Loaded: 1020 times
Reader ratings: 4.1
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Language: English

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The Book
The Witches of Karres started life in 1949 as a short story, and then in 1965-1966 Schmitz expanded it into a full novel by adding a couple of short novellas. In 2005 Eric Flint did a bit of editing work (Mainly removing a lot of references to smoking and some other points that badly dated the story) and it was released as part of Baen's reissue of Schmitz's most popular works.

Witches of Karres is classified as a space opera, but really it's more like a space operetta - Light, fun, and fast-paced, with lots of humour and adventure. There's no real plot here, since the first fifth of the story started life as a separate short story and has little relationship to the plots of the next two sections. But sometimes plot is over-rated, and in this case it serves as nothing more than a bare bones structure to hang a series of adventure on.

As a note about the plot -Witches of Karres starts with the captain of an aging but fast tramp freighter rescuing three children with psychic powers from the clutches of an Empire hunting for their homeworld, then escalates rapidly to a space battle against Worm World, a world-sized battleship commanded by a robotic being in black armour. Replace the three little kids with a single princess, drop the Worm Worlders and place the worldship under the command of the Empire, and you have exactly the plot of an early draft of Star Wars. Eventually George Lucas discovered Akira Kurosawa and Joseph Campbell and realised that if he ripped them off instead he'd be a lot less likely to be sued, but elements of Schmitz (and classic space opera in general) are all over early Star Wars.

The Good
James H. Schmitz was a master of transparent prose, the craft of writing sentences and paragraphs that don't draw attention to themselves and let you enjoy the story. He was also an expert at minimalistic character-building, letting characters define themselves through action and dialogue rather than internal monologues or description. Both of these skills were vital for someone who worked as a writer of short stories and novellas.
Captain Pausert comes across as a basically decent and highly pragmatic individual without the narrative ever really calling attention to these traits. Pausert simply takes the actions appropriate to a decent and pragmatic young man, and the narrative lets you draw your own conclusions about his character. The same can be said of everyone in this story. We don't need to be told that dread pirate-lord the Agandar is a bad man: We see him doing bad things all while explaining why taking children hostage, drugging and kidnapping people, leading a band of murderous thugs, etc, is all highly rational and the only clever thing for a man to do.

More complex narratives can draw more complex characters, but for a compact tale likeWitches a narrative style that sticks closely to 'show don't tell' and simply gets on with the story is exactly the right style.

The Bad
There's nothing at all wrong with this book, but it definitely a piece of fluff. If you're looking for a complex plot, deep themes, well-developed worldbuilding, or subtle characters, this is not the book for you. Schmitz intended Witches as a light-hearted adventure story and that's exactly what ended up on the pages. If you like fast-paced adventures and basic space opera, you'll like Witches of Karres. If those sort of stories aren't to your taste, then you'll want to give Witches a pass.

The Problematic
So, Goth. The three witches of Karres are Maleen, Goth, and the Leewit (the the being a vital part of her name, and don't you forget it) are fourteen, nine or ten, and six years old respectively. And they've decided that Goth is going to marry Captain Pausert, aged twenty-eight. Not yet, mind you, but still...

As pointed out above,Witches of Karres started life as a short story. Specifically, it started out as a humorous adventure story for ages ten to thirteen. A short story with the premise that these three kids have completely screwed over Captain Pausert is right up the alley for that age group, as is ending on the idea that they will continue to screw over Captain Pausert for the rest of his life. (He's actually a lot happier in his new life as an interplanetary rogue then he ever was as a law-abiding citizen of Nikkeldepain, but that's besides the point.)

As a premise for a kids-oriented short story, this is fine. Don't think too hard about it, enjoy the story, and move on. As part of a longer novel it becomes a bit... Problematic.

Schmitz deals with the problematic aspects in a way that feels appropriate for the light-hearted tone of the story. Captain Pausert is an instinctively decent person. As such he is clearly uncomfortable with the idea and deflects Goth and changes the subject every time it comes up, and his interactions with Goth are all age-appropriate. Goth's behaviour towards Pausert is likewise age-appropriate, and her attitude towards him is not at all 'potential mate material'. In fact, between the three witches it seems to be more a matter of finders keepers. You can imaging the witches saying to their parents "He followed us home We dragged him home, kicking and screaming. Can we keep him?" The narrative of the story gives the idea of marriage a very light treatment, very much a child's eye view of just spending a lot of time with one particular person. It's completely non-sexual.

Within the story, the witch-people of Karres organize much of their life around the work of probability calculators, psychic oracles who scan possible futures and provide guidance towards best outcomes. These probability calculators (including Maleen, Goth's older sister) calculate that continued association with Pausert will be good for Goth. They also say that it's not necessarily good for Pausert, but oh well... And thanks to their psychic powers, despite being away from home Goth and her sisters are in reasonably close contact with their parents.

Schmitz deals with the problematic material by keeping the treatment of it light and age-appropriate, and providing in-story justifications for why Goth is safe hanging around this older man she's decided to marry in a few years. Whether or not that's enough for the reader is a matter of individual judgement. I will say that I find age-difference fanfics to be highly squicky, and some of Lois McMaster Bujold's May-December pairings border on squick as well for me, but I had no problems with Goth and Captain Pausert.

The Verdict
Highly recommended. Witches of Karres is both a lot of fun and an opportunity to watch a master of old-school pulp science fiction at work.

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Read information about the author

Ebook The Witches of Karres read Online! James Henry Schmitz (October 15, 1911–April 18, 1981) was an American writer born in Hamburg, Germany of American parents. Aside from two years at business school in Chicago, Schmitz lived in Germany until 1938, leaving before World War II broke out in Europe in 1939. During World War II, Schmitz served as an aerial photographer in the Pacific for the United States Army Air Corps. After the war, he and his brother-in-law ran a business which manufactured trailers until they broke up the business in 1949.

Schmitz is best known as a writer of space opera, and for strong female characters (including Telzey Amberdon and Trigger Argee) that didn't fit into the damsel in distress stereotype typical of science fiction during the time he was writing. His first published story was Greenface, published in August 1943 in Unknown. Most of his works are part of the "Hub" series, though his best known novel is the non-Hub The Witches of Karres, concerning juvenile "witches" with genuine psi-powers and their escape from slavery. Karres was nominated for a Hugo Award.

In recent years, his novels and short stories have been republished by Baen Books (which bought the rights to his estate for $6500), edited (sometimes heavily edited) and with notes by Eric Flint. Baen have also published new works based in the Karres universe.

Schmitz died of congestive lung failure in 1981 after a five week stay in the hospital in Los Angeles. He was survived by his wife, Betty Mae Chapman Schmitz.

Reviews of the The Witches of Karres


This book changed my life!


Another one-time book


Why do you need to drive a phone?


The book brought changes in life!


An interesting book, not like the other

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