The Best of James H. Schmitz
by James H. Schmitz

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

edited by Mark L. Olson

New England Science Fiction Association
Framingham, Massachusetts; 1991

243 pages

February 2005


The Best of James H. Schmitz is an excellent science fiction collection, and since it has gone through several hardcover printings from NESFA Press, I hope that libraries have discovered it. Of course it's not the "best" (or "essential") selection of Schmitz's stories, but it is a cross-section of a writer of quite subtle and very entertaining adventures. A Sampler of James H. Schmitz would be nicely descriptive, but perhaps that's not a product-moving word for publishers any more.

It contains nine stories which all are interesting and distinctive:

"The Custodians" and "Just Curious" are entirely independent stories.

"The Second Night of Summer" is part of the Agent of Vega series, but not dependent on others in that series.

The other six stories are part of Schmitz's sprawling Federation of the Hub series. Don't worry about reading them semi-independently here; their sequence is not critical. Within the Hub series, "Novice" is the story which introduces Telzey Amberdon, and "Goblin Night" is a later story featuring that teenage mentalist heroine.

All are quite good stories. Not only the casual reader, but the attentive re-reader, should enjoy them.

Some of these stories come under the general discussion of the Telzey Amberdon series, and others eventually will be reviewed at Troynovant. I quote a section of dialogue from "Lion Loose" in my essay Schmitz's ComWeb: Early SF Desktop Computers & Internet.

The Best of James H. Schmitz also includes a Bibliography, now somewhat out of date, but helpfully including anthology appearances. I must correct one misleading entry, for the Telzey Amberdon novella "The Lion Game" and a collection using the same title. Here we have the collection-titling problem again. As given:

The Lion Game (novel)
   The stories "Goblin Night" and "Sleep No More"
   along with considerable additional material
   were incorporated into this novel.
   pb: DAW, 73; Sidgwick & Jackson, 76; Hamlyn, 79; Ace, 82.

This should be two entries, thusly:

"The Lion Game"
   Analog, August & September 1971

The Lion Game (sequenced collection)
        "Goblin Night",
        "Sleep No More" (opening is rewritten),
     & "The Lion Game".
   pb: DAW, 73; Hamlyn, 79; Ace, 82.
   hc: Sidgwick & Jackson, 76.

I want to give special praise to the book's fine Introduction by Janet Kagan, "Mischief in the Spaceways". Her essay provides a true entry to Schmitz and to this collection, with tantalizing detail that justifies her loving tone. Yet she is respectful of her readers, avoiding two pitfalls: the general problem of plot spoilers (she carefully teases, instead); and the problem specific to Schmitz introductions of wanting to write instead about his fabulous science-fiction adventure novel The Witches of Karres. Janet Kagan puts in good words for that novel, as well as for The Demon Breed and A Tale of Two Clocks (using the correct title), without letting any single work of Schmitz monopolize her Introduction. Do read her essay; it's also available online.

Overall, The Best of James H. Schmitz is an excellent sampler of Schmitz's neatly inventive situations and characters, and subtly wild adventuring.


© 2005 Robert Wilfred Franson


Troynovant, or Renewing Troy: New | Contents
  recurrent inspiration    Recent Updates
emergent layers of
untimely Reviews
& prismatic Essays


Books by Author:  A-B   C-F   G-L   M-R   S-Z
   Books by Title:  A-B   C-F   G-L   M-R   S-Z
Pamphlets by Title   Stories by Author   Stories by Title

Strata | Regions | Personae   

© 2001-2024 Franson Publications