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Trying to remember the name/author of a book:

  • Long book. Many many separate small chapters.
  • Scifi about humans, on non-Earth planet. They have poisonous native life, and can only eat a few brought from Earth plants.
  • Because of that, they practice cannibalism, to no waste human body proteins. The story opened with consuming a body of someone who recently died.
  • It had a pretty complex plot, with politics, war, technology, social structures, etc.
  • Social/sexual customs were kind of weird even leaving aside rituals around cannibalism. But it was NOT Heinlein, I'm sure of that :)

I don't know the year it was published, but it was pretty old, I took it around 1993-95 from a library and the physical book looked well-read by that time.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

This is "Courtship Rite" by Donald Kingsbury.

I've not read it personally, but the plotline described on Wikipedia seems a solid fit.

Geta is a harsh planet settled by humanity centuries before the novel begins.

Geta is much drier than Earth. Terraforming was never, or very minimally, initiated on the planet's biosphere, leaving it very inhospitable to the descendants of the original settlers, who have become mythic, God-like creatures to its denizens.

Apparently the only Earth-life on Geta are humans, bees, and the "Eight Sacred Plants", including wheat, soybeans, barley, and potatoes. Native, "profane" life includes plants, a wide variety of sea-creatures and "insects", but no large land-animals. Each has a different biochemistry, so each is largely toxic to the other. As a result, food is a commodity that is very precious on Geta, and in most places the only source of meat is humans themselves. Cannibalism has insinuated itself into the very fabric of social and religious life.

It's also described elsewhere as being epic in length with lots of short chapters.

Courtship Rite

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"Eight Sacred Plants" rings a very big bell. I'll check more details but this sounds like it may be it. – DVK-in-exile Feb 22 '14 at 17:21
@DVK - For the record, this book looks awful... – Valorum Feb 22 '14 at 18:24
@Richard it was fairly well liked when it came out - a Hugo nominee. I never managed to get past the first few dozen pages though. – Organic Marble Aug 13 '15 at 0:11
I read it many years ago. I found it interesting and fairly entertaining, though not wonderful. – user24353 Oct 8 '15 at 20:08

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