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I'm trying to remember the title of an illustrated children's book I read years ago.

The story features a race of efficient people who put everything into their technology. They build machines, build vehicles, and work all the time. I think the phrase "quickly and well" is repeated throughout the story, as in "they built the ramps quickly and well." Their natural environment is completely destroyed, but they ignore it. Over time they evolve wheels in place of their feet, and pollution-masks in place of their faces. Eventually, their pollution spreads out across space, and some sort of superhero from beyond Neptune (and possibly his dog) detects the pollution and comes to change things.

I think the book is from late 1970s or early 1980s. I think it's printed like a comic book: about 48 8.5" x 11" pages, printed on heavy glossy paper, and possibly done in a two-color process (red and black on white). The art was very simple and stylized. It might be a Canadian publication.

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Have you looked at Retief's War by Keith Laumer? It was published 1966, though I don't have any information about its appearance for for that printing.

The major similarity is the wheels - the book has people - or aliens who are part mechanical, and have wheels. they're actually a strange mix, sometimes treated as naturally grown, sometimes as assembled. The environment is likewise very technological. There is a superhero (kind of, a cunning trickster hero) who comes, unravels plots, and fixes things in spite of bureaucracy, corruption, and alien plots.

Things that don't match up so well - I don't think the environment is necessarily "wasted", there's some suggestion that the half-mechanical state is natural, and I think perhaps a plot for environmental exploitation that is prevented. Its not specifically a children's book, (I don't know if it was illustrated), or if it might have been included with children's books at some point. And I am not sure if the phrase "Quickly and well" is oft repeated, as the questioner recalls. It may be there, but it's been years since I read it and I'm not sure.

I'm not sure this is the story, there are some pretty significant details that are different - but the wheels, the half mechanical people, struck me as unusual enough I thought I'd put it out there in case this story got mixed with something else in memory.

  • Sorry, this wasn't the book I was thinking of. The book I have in mind is definitely a kid's book, probably for under-12s. – AshleyZ Mar 29 '16 at 19:38
  • @AshleyZ - sorry, it was a long shot. I hope you find it! – Megha Mar 30 '16 at 3:09
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There were some intelligent creatures (mulefa) who rode on wheels in Philip Pullman "His Dark Materials" trilogy, I guess in book three Amber Spyglass. This is the trilogy that starts with Colden Compass (also a movie)

The rest of your description unfortunately does not match with this. Should have added this as comment instead.

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