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The book was about a man who would be surgically altered to investigate different planets, and live with the alien beings on them. He would learn about them, and their social/linguistic behaviours. On one planet he became a being that would curl into a ball and roll. On another, he became some type of lizard-type thing that had a pyramidal structure sticking out from it, the purpose of which he did not know. It's not a recent novel, I probably read it 25 years ago. There were at least two or three different life forms he was altered to be. At the time I was reading a lot of Heinlein, Pohl, and Poul.

marked as duplicate by Otis, Gallifreyan, Rand al'Thor Aug 11 '17 at 21:22

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    When and where did you read this? Hardback or paperback? Do you remember anything about the cover? Approximate number of pages? :) If you click on the story-identification tag, it will give you a list of questions. Answer what you can to help us help you. – FuzzyBoots May 9 '16 at 17:22
  • Thanks, I believe it was hardcover, and I do not recall any detail of the cover. I do seem to recall that the life forms that rolled around like a ball might have been called wheelers. – Jon May 9 '16 at 18:04
  • Sounds a bit like Piers Anthony's Cluster series - that was people's auras travelling into alien bodies rather than surgical alteration, but perhaps you misremembered that part? – Harry Johnston May 9 '16 at 22:03
  • is there a part where, when he comes back he is no more considered as human, and spark a controversy on terraformation (modification of world to allow human colonization) against humanformation (modification of human to allow for colonization of a world) ? – PATRY Guillaume May 10 '16 at 11:24
  • See OP confirmation comment in answer below. – Otis Aug 11 '17 at 20:43
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A Miracle of Rare Design by Mike Resnick.

The protaganist is Xavier William Lennox. He is an author of alien travelogues and undergoes surgical modifications to fit in with the aliens. When we first meet him he is on a world of aliens called Fireflies (he's discovered and tortured and mutilated and barely escapes with his life - it's a dangerous profession! :-).

The aliens you mention are indeed called Wheelers and live on the planet Tamerlaine. Lennox goes there on behalf of the Department of Cartology to try and assess whether they are sentient or not. This matters because if they are their planet cannot be settled by humans.

However I can't find any mention of a lizard like race with a pyramidal organ. The Fireflies are avian with vestigial wings, but a pyramid is a central part of their religion. Could this by what you're remembering? The other races Lennox becomes are Singers, which are vaguely insectoid, and Hawkhorns, which are somewhat avian but massively built.

The was published in 1994 so it isn't quite 25 years old, but it is otherwise a perfect match to your description.

  • Thanks! That's the one....22 years ago, not 25 :) Makes sense because I read Kirinyaga right around then too. Many thanks! – Jon May 10 '16 at 12:23
  • @Jon: glad to be of service :-) If you're happy I've got the correct book can you click on the tick symbol to accept the answer. – John Rennie May 10 '16 at 12:40

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