It is very interesting how much good books can be found on the Internet for free. And when I say free, I'm not talking about torrent and warez sites, but about books that have been published by the authors themselves or publishing houses for anyone to download and read, completely free of charge.
One such books which I've just read is titled <a href="http://www.webscription.net/p-9-agent-of-vega.aspx">'Agent of Vega'</a>, by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_H._Schmitz">James H. Schmitz</a>. I've downloaded it from an excellent <a href="http://www.baen.com/library/">Baen Free Library</a> (the link to which I found through the FBReader's Free Books page, of course). <!--break--> The book is a collection of novels written by Schmitz (not sure about exact timeline when they were written). First five stories are placed in far future, where mankind has spread amongst the stars, but has evolved in different directions. One of the bigger political entities, encompassing many planets, mostly populate with Homo Sapiens descendants, is called "The Confederacy of Vega". Within this great confederacy there exists a somewhat secret department which is trying to eliminate serious threats to the confederacy, and help get new planets join it. What makes the department's position a bit tricky is existence of xenophobic opposition within the confederacy itself, as well as breaking of some of the rules set forth by it. The main <em>tools</em> of this endeavour are <em>Zone Agents</em>, who are quite exceptional individuals in one way or another (most featuring quite an interesting arsenal of weapons, ships etc). Each story deals with destinies of different Zone Agents, but there are very often some overlaps, or mentions of characters from previous novels.
The rest of the stories are, although not as epic as the first five, still very interesting. Unlike the <em>The Confederacy of Vega</em> stories, they very often feature an interesting twist at the end, and each and every one of them is well worth the reading. I've particularly liked two stories here, <em>The Beacon to Elsewhere</em>, and <em>The End of the Line</em>. Since they're much shorter than the first five stories, I won't go into detailed explanation of their stories, though.
What really enchanted me with these novels, though, is Schmitz's excellent writing style. The sentences are well written, understandable, articulate, and they're very diverse. After reading only about 2-3 pages of <em>Agent of Vega</em> story, I've become completely engulfed by both the story itself and writing style.
This is indeed a fantastic collection of novels, and I'd suggest reading it to anyone who's into sci-fi books.