Here’s another book I’ve had on my shelves for decades. I bought The Virgin & The Wheels (1976) because of the cool wrap-around cover by Don Maitz. The Virgin & The Wheels consists of two novellas: “The Virgin of Zesh” and “The Wheels of If.”

The Virgin of Zesh” is the fourth book of de Camp’s  Viagens Interplanetarias series and the third of its sub-series of stories set on the fictional planet of Krishna. Chronologically, it is the fifth Krishna novella. Originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1953, “The Virgin of Zesh” tells the story of Earth missionary Althea Merrick, who is stranded on the planet Krishna and fleeing from an unconsummated marriage to a corrupt and cruel Viagens Interplanetarias official. Merrick joins a scientist and poet who travel to a utopian Terran colony on the island of Zesh.  Of course, many things go wrong. Althea Merrick finds her faith shaken by events. GRADE: B+

“The Wheels of If” is an alternate history science fiction story first published in the magazine Unknown Fantasy Fiction for October, 1940. “The Wheels of If” first appeared in book form in de Camp’s collection The Wheels of If and Other Science Fiction (1948).  Lawyer Alister Park finds himself in alternate histories and needs to solve the puzzle of how to get back to his own time-line. GRADE: B

The Virgin & The Wheels collects two entertaining novellas from de Camp’s early writing career. If you’re looking for fun and diversion, here it is.

18 thoughts on “FORGOTTEN BOOKS #610: THE VIRGIN & THE WHEELS By L. Sprague de Camp

  1. wolf

    Have to admit that I don’t remember these – but they are among the 36 (!!!) “novels” from Lester (many of them written with Fletcher Pratt) that I’ve bought over the years.
    I found his stories always fun, easy to read when I was on business trips e g and needed something light to read before going to sleepin my hotel room.

  2. Steve Oerkfitz

    I read a lot of de Camp back in the day but nothing recently. He was best known for his Harold Shea novels he wrote with Fletcher Pratt. He also wrote several historical novels. I think I read The Wheels of If but never heard of the other one. He wrote some pretty good short stories and I do have a best of lying around somewhere.

  3. Jerry House

    I’ve enjoyed most of his early stuff, especially his work in UNKNOWN. And, of course, he was instrumental (rightly or wrongly) in the Conan revival in the late Sixties/early Seventies.

  4. Jeff Meyerson

    Not really my thing. I’ve read a bunch of his short stories – GAVAGAN’S BAR, mainly, plus a collection of his shorter fantasy stories.

  5. Jeff Smith

    I own a lot of de Camp and have read some of it. I don’t have this book, but I think I have both stories in other editions. I read the Harold Shea books, and some fantasies, and some quite good historical novels. I liked the early Lancer Conans before Lin Carter joined.

    Interesting Don Maitz cover. He got better. I remember when nudity was acceptable on covers. Dean Koontz, when he was a high school teacher, got disciplined for assigning the de Camp/Pratt INCOMPLEAT ENCHANTER with a Jeff Jones nude cover.

    And I love the blurb, “two stunning new triumphs.” These weren’t exactly new.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, I dimly remember that story about Dean Koontz and the Jeff Jones cover. You’re right about Don Maitz getting better, but I like this wrap-around cover.


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