Review: Agent of Vega

James H. Schmitz
1960

I want to be a Zone Agent from Vega.  Agents from Vega are the coolest law enforcement dudes ever.  You can keep your lightsabre and mind tricks.  I don’t want a Lawgiver and a fancy uniform.  All that gimmicky stuff out of the Applied Sciences Division of Wayne Enterprises can’t hold a candle to the gear that a Zone Agent has access to.  A Zone Agent has psi-powers.  A Zone Agent is a skilled negotiator, but has the authority use brutal and terminal force without hesitation – and they will.  A Zone Agent has the unquestioning co-operation of local governments all over Vega.  A Zone Agent has a spaceship.

A spaceship??  So what!!  Even Flash Gordon had a spaceship.

Yes, but he didn’t have a spaceship that was custom crafted to an Agent’s exact requirements with no expense spared.  A spaceship that has an artificial intelligence built from the Agent’s own, yet develops it’s own personality.  A spaceship stocked full of all manner of trick gear that can get you out of any jam.

This book is full-on space opera and starts off at speed and never lets up.  This is a reflection of the of the book’s short story origins.  As with quite a few Gnome Press books, this is a collection of work previously published in pulp magazines and presented via hardcover format.  It reads as such, though this isn’t a bad thing, but it does impact on the ‘setting of the stage’ so to speak.  We never really know exactly what ‘Vega’ is, or where or when it is.  I assumed from the hints presented throughout the book that it’s made up of ‘Zones’ and part of much larger (but never mentioned) Galactic Empire of some sort.  I imagined Vega to be located out towards the edge of the galaxy because of the impression I got during the course of the stories.  In other words, the broader setting is very vague.  However, we do know that it is a long, long time in the future.  Mankind has settled the stars and has had enough time to develop localized physical adaptations, and some alien species are incorporated into the greater Vegan society.  Like any society, Vega has law enforcement and the cream of the crop are the Zone Agents.  Somewhat analogous to the FBI, but with much wider ranging responsibilities and powers.  The Agents operate out of shadowy Department of Galactic Zones based on the dedicated planet of Jeltad.

The common thread of the Department runs through the book.  Also, out of the four stories, Zone Agent Padagan makes an appearance in first three and Agent Grandma Wannattel figures in the final two.  As a result, it does give the illusion of an ongoing story rather than four different but related tales culled from separate publications.

If I was to be critical, the final story is a little weak, or slow might actually be a better way of putting it, compared to the preceding space romps.  The characters throughout the book are a little thin, but to be fair they do exist in a limited context due to the nature of the stories.  Also, there is nothing hard about the science, theres no science at all actually.  Things like faster-than-light travel, tractor beams, myterious ‘grapples’ that pick up things outside the ship and the ‘Emergency Treatment Chamber’ within – they… well, they just are.  They’re never explained, or described even.  But this is space opera after all and I, for one, am quite happy to put all that aside as this book is a very enjoyable read for fans of this genre.

My only regret is that Mr. Schmitz didn’t write more in this universe.  I would love to spend more time on assignment with the Agents of Vega.  Now, where can I sign up……?

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