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I came across a book at a used bookstore about 20 years ago which I then accidentally sold. Long story. Anyway, I've been trying to find another copy for the last five years or so with no luck. I can't for the life of me remember the title.

I believe it was a black cover with the picture of a space cruise liner shaped like a swan on the front. It was very well made with heavy full color pages and a slick finish. It was about an inch and a half thick.

The book was written as if it was a travel guide by a company specializing in interstellar cruises. It covered their various packages and then delved into the various locations the cruises stopped, indigenous life forms and societies, etc.

One of the species you were to encounter were three-legged pod-like creatures which had no eyesight and communicated by smell. Another was a tall slender race whose advances in medical science had led them to do body modification and "plastic surgery" to the point that it was the focus of their culture. There was another planet which had tall crystal growths which were believed to be sentient.

Sounds strange, but it was a very interesting book. I loved the way it was presented. I'd like to get it as a present for one of my boys.

What is the title?

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“Another was a tall slender race whose advances in medical science had led them to do body modification and "plastic surgery" to the point that it was the focus of their culture.” They hailed from a mysterious planet called “Essex”. –  Paul D. Waite Jun 18 at 13:44

2 Answers 2

It looks a lot likee one of the Terran Trade Authority books from Stewar Cowley, most specifically "Starliners"

Book front

The ship that you remember is most probably the Galactic Queen from the TTA:

Galactic Queen. Not in front cover, though.

The book lists a series of "local" (coversing just a solar system, or a few years-light around it) or "global" (covering several hundreds of light years) shipping companies, accompanied by a description of the worlds that it touches and its inhabitants, and pictures of characteristic ships.

UPDATE: An slender version of the GQ (an "earlier" model) appears in another of the books (not in the front cover) of the series (Spacecrafts 2000-2100 A.D.):

enter image description here

As for the contents, the Starliners book talks little about the ships and more about the different star systems (including one specialized in medical science) and races. OTOH, "Spacecrafts" talks more about the ships.

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Oh wow! Ok. Could be and that did lead me to work by Bob Shaw called Galactic Tours which sounds very similar. I wish I could see inside some of those on Amazon. The Galactic Queen looks similar but the ship on the cover of the edition I had looked very much like a swan. Much smoother and elegant. TTA looks to be more about ships and technology than travelogue. It's definitely a good start in the right direction though. I've got to get my hands on one of those and one of the Galactic Tours books to be sure. –  ChrisSpires Jun 18 at 17:00
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Anybody else think that this ship looks similar to Serenity? storiesbywilliams.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/serenity2.jpg –  Moogle Jun 18 at 17:33
    
@Moogle Some, but you have the causal relationship (if any) confused. –  dmckee Jun 18 at 17:44
    
If the starship looked like a swan, it was probably originally the UK cover picture for one of Brian Stableford's Hooded Swan series. The one in the answer above is from the first book, but they all had a swan-shaped starship. –  Mike Scott Jun 18 at 17:54
    
@dmckee "looks like" and "is similar to" don't imply any sort of chronology or causal relationship. "A looks like B" is the same as "B looks like A". –  Moogle Jun 18 at 20:31

There were a number of books in this vein, aside from TTA books and Galactic Tours, it could also be:

Handbook for Space Pioneers (another edition with different cover here)

Tour of the Universe

And if you look at the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section on amazon for other books in this style, some like Space Wars have lots of links, so you could just click around looking at different cover images for a while to see if you find one that rings a bell.

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These books were basically collections of sci-fi art from various artists with narrative loosely linking them together as in a tour guide. Here's another one which may help Dangerous Frontiers –  TheMathemagician Jun 19 at 8:37

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