Archive for the 1960 Category

Review: Agent of Vega

Posted in 1960, 3:Lunar, Review with tags , on February 21, 2009 by Aaron

James H. Schmitz

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……?


Close Up: Agent of Vega

Posted in 1960, Close Up with tags , , on February 19, 2009 by Aaron

closeupJames H. Schmitz

I got this book as part of a package. I bought Sands of Mars from eBay and picked up this and The Vortex Blaster as extras.  If I look at this objectively from a purely fiscal point of view, I think I paid too much.  I picked up Sands for $74 on eBay (which I thought was pretty good) and paid $150 for Sands with Vega and Vortex into the bargain.  I split the difference and decided I paid $38 for each.

As I said a little earlier, I was a bit disappointed with the condition of both Vega and Vortex.  Both books exhibit similar issues, and we’ll have a look at Vega’s now.  Incidentally, notice that the author’s name is printed incorrectly on the dust jacket.  It should be James H. Schmitz, not James A. Schmitz.

Ok, you can see where the problems are straight away.  Some pretty serious foxing going on on the dust jacket – very prominent in the discoloration of what should be a white spine.  You’ll notice the overall yellowish cast to the entire book.  This is highlighted below where you can see the impact of the foxing quite markedly.

Significant block browning as per usual with the cheap acidic stock that GP used in their later years.  If we look at the top and bottom we can see this theme continued.

It does sit square though there is damage to the spine extremities and along the edges of the boards.  And if you look carefully below the dust jacket is wearing very thin at these points.  Thank goodness for dust jacket covers.

The boards themselves are succumbing to what must has been a damp environment at some stage in the past.

Some mildewey-looking spots there.  This is the worst area on the book, but it is all over the boards to a lesser extent.  And there is what looks to be an oil stain along the bottom edges.

Now that I’ve got all that out of my system.  A couple of cool things about this publication.  Check out the half-moon designs on only the odd-page upper corners and their sprinkling on the beginning pages for each story.

Nice.  I like this kind of thing and kudos to Gnome Press for these little touches.  Likewise the off-beat embossing on the spine.  The review will come soon, I’ve just about finished reading it.  Good read it is too.

Year: 1960
Paid: $38
Art: W. I. Van der Poel
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Currey priority ‘A’ – Light blue boards with gold lettering to spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: Looks great from a distance but unfortunately has those insidious flaws – foxing and staining.  Someone tell me, is $38 too much for this??
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