31 May 2012

Old School: A Review of The Witches of Karres

Is there anything better than diving into a book that you can't put down?  Thanks to The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz I was lost to the world this weekend. Sorry family, but my mind was with The Witches.  Remember when we all went to the park and I returned home feeling ill?  The only illness that laid me out was an acute witch withdrawal. It has been awhile (at least two months - for me...an eternity!) since I have fallen victim to a really good book

And let me tell you it was glorious.   I am rather embarrassed to admit that my knowledge of SF books published before 1980 is limited.  Thank the Maker not only acts as my own personal brainwashing device (I will convert you to SF, I will) but it also forces me to explore and expand my  reading catalogue.    The Witches of Karres is straight up old school.   Can there be anything more old school than being originally published as a novella in 1949 and winning the Hugo  in 1967?    As I ate up the chapters I was amazed at how current the book seems.   If I had not completed a little wikipedia peak about I would never have guessed the book has been around so long.  And what is more fascinating to me is how much it reminds me of anime.

What book have you read recently where the main character  teams up with three children who happen to be witches? That is right, witches.  Witches in space! Witches who use magic to create  the Sheewash Drive:  a hyperdrive or for my treckers out there, a warp core.  I am tempted to add ten million more exclamations marks.  I absolutely adore this idea as much as I adore Pigs in Space. (went all Muppet on you there).

I am surprised that it is only now that I have heard about this book.  Having read it , it is pretty obvious to me the effect it had on future SF writers.  Like Asimov, there is something very particular to the way that Schmitz writes.  Sure, it is not going to knock your socks of with its prose.  And sure it is rather elementary (at times consider a children's book) but what makes this book a success is its overwhelming sense of fun.  SF truly lets an author go wild.  I have a feeling Schmitz had a blast writing this book.  The best thing though about The Witches of Karres is that it doesn't end here.  A handful of contemporary writers (Merecdes Lackey...anyone surprised?) have picked up where this book stopped and continued the saga in The Wizard of Karres and then with The Sorceress of Karres by Eric Flint & Dave Freer.

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