Today's book review is Agent of Vega & Other Stories, a collection of stories by James H. Schmitz, edited by Eric Flint and Guy Gordon.
This book was the book I was taking with me to cons while I left my regular reading matter at home for some months, so I don't really remember the earlier stories, but reading a few pages of a book and then setting it aside for weeks isn't very good to the book. It's not as bad for stories as it is for a novel, which is why I choose a collection for this treatment, but I decided after what I'd read at the string of cons I'd just been to that I would go ahead and finish this rather than dribbling it out for months.
Schmitz spins interesting yarns, usually about futuristic civilizations involving psi powers. These stories were mostly written in the early 50's, but they're nowhere near as dated as I find some of the SF I've read from previous decades. Good, fun adventure stories, with often interesting ideas. It seems unusual, amongst the stuff I read now (sadly including the news), to encounter story after story where a big, powerful, not particularly democratic government is efficient, wise, and the good guys in the story. If you've been following the Flint-edited series of Schmitz collections, this is of a piece with the others; the stories are just as solid as the ones featuring Telzey and Trigger. If you haven't, these stories are highly regarded examples of SF from an earlier generation and also well worth reading in their own right. If you're a serious reader of SF, you should certainly try one of these volumes, and this one is as good as the others and stands on its own.
I don't think I could say a whole lot more without going into details about specific stories, so I'll leave it at that. Engaging plots, interesting ideas, nifty psi powers, and he doesn't make the mistake of trying to explain his techno-magic with foolish double-talk, so it's not hard to suspend disbelief. The characters are the weakest point -- a little artificial but not utterly cardboard, they're reasonably believable, but seldom really engaging. Not the best ever, but a solid book. 8 out of 10.