Wheels Within Wheels is listed as my second novel. And it almost is. (A novel, that is.)
It’s rooted in the high point of my writing career to that time: When the original “Wheels Within Wheels” novelette snagged the cover of the September 1971 Analog with a fabulous (not a word I use very often) cover by John Schoenherr that perfectly captured the menacing elements of the story. Talk about a thrill. To a newbie SF writer in those days it was equivalent to a garage band making the cover of Rolling Stone. I didn’t have it made, but I felt I had made it.
After Healer, Doubleday wanted another novel. I decided to follow the same process that had sparked that book: Take one of my Analog stories and use it as a springboard. “Wheels Within Wheels” begged for expansion, and so it got the nod.
Doubleday offered a fifty-percent increase in my advance (up to a whopping $3000), and Jim Frenkel took paperback rights for his SF line at Dell.
I was cruising.
WWW the novel is less episodic than Healer, and certainly hangs together better, but it still strikes me as not quite as cohesive as a novel should be.
Perhaps I’m being too tough on it. The important thing now is that after twenty-eight years – I wrote it in 1977 – it still works on many levels. But not all.
Its main failings are those suffered by any science fiction written in the seventies, in the Dark Ages before…
…the microchip revolution: Computers you can hold in your palm? Get out.
…the communications revolution: World Wide Web – are we talking giant spiders? Email – what’s that? Wireless telephones the size of a cigarette pack – crazy.