The Hand of Zei

The Hand of Zei

Infobox Book |
name = The Hand of Zei
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = first edition of the full text of "The Hand of Zei"
author = L. Sprague de Camp
illustrator = Edd Cartier
cover_artist = Kelly Freas
country = United States
language = English
series = Krishna
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Owlswick Press
release_date = 1981
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback)
pages = 276 pp
isbn = ISBN 0913896209
preceded_by = The Queen of Zamba
followed_by = The Hostage of Zir

"The Hand of Zei" is a science fiction novel written by L. Sprague de Camp, the second book of his "Viagens Interplanetarias" series and its subseries of stories set on the fictional planet Krishna. As with some other de Camp works, it has a convoluted publication history. It was first published in the magazine "Astounding Science Fiction" as a four-part serial in the issues for October, 1950-January, 1951. The text was redivided into two parts for its first publication in book form by Avalon, appearing as the separate volumes "The Search for Zei" (1962) and "The Hand of Zei" (1963). To facilitate the new division, de Camp wrote a new ending for the first and a new beginning for the second to briefly recapitulate the portion of the story already told. The two parts were then reissued together in paperback by Ace Books in 1963, back to back and inverted in relationship to each other, as an "Ace Double". The Ace versions were slightly abridged by the author. The novel was published in the UK by Compact Books as The Floating Continent (1966). A restored text bringing both segments back together was finally published by Owlswick Press in 1981. A new paperback edition utilizing this text was issued by Ace Books in 1982 as part of the standard edition of the Krishna novels. The novel has been translated into Dutch, French, German and Czech.

As with all of the "Krishna" novels, the title of "The Hand of Zei" has a "Z" in it, a practice de Camp claimed to have devised to keep track of them. Short stories in the series do not follow the practice, nor do "Viagens Interplanetarias" works not set on Krishna.

Plot and storyline

Travel writer Dirk Barnevelt and lecturer George Tangaloa, associates of interplanetary explorer and documentarian Igor Shtain, are drafted on Shtain's disappearance to complete his commission to explore the Sargasso Sea-like Sunqar area of Krishna's Banjao Sea — and incidentally to find Shtain, who is suspected to have been kidnapped to Krishna. Arriving on the planet, the Earthmen travel to their goal in disguise as native Krishnans, dogged at every step by pirates from the Sunqar who believe their true goal is to disrupt the pirates' smuggling operation. Complications arise when the two become embroiled in the affairs of the native monarchy of Qirib, whose princess Zei is kidnapped by the pirates. Dirk is ordered by Queen Alvandi to recover the princess while George remains behind as a hostage. Now Dirk must take the lead in rescuing Zei, putting down the pirates, recovering Shtain, and settling the affairs of Alvandi's topsy-turvy kingdom, in which the women bear arms and the men languish in perfumed idleness. To make matters worse, Dirk has fallen in love with Zei, but as representatives of two different species they can never be a true couple ... or can they?

After an introductory section set on Earth in about the Terran year 2132, the main events of the novel take place on Krishna in 2143, with a final scene from the following year.


The planet Krishna is de Camp's premier creation in the Sword and Planet genre, representing both a tribute to the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs and an attempt to "get it right", reconstructing the concept logically, without what he regarded as Burroughs' biological and technological absurdities.


*cite book | last=Laughlin | first=Charlotte | coauthors=Daniel J. H. Levack | title=De Camp: An L. Sprague de Camp Bibliography | location=San Francisco | publisher=Underwood/Miller | pages=64 | date=1983

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