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I remember reading a young-adult sci-fi novel many years ago (early 90's), but I don't remember much about it, even though I read it at least twice. I recall it being an important transitional book for me, and I think that's why I read it more than once. It was the first time I was intrigued by something more sophisticated.

As I recall, the basic plot involved a manned mission to explore a planet or a moon. There was a multi-legged alien that started out as a pet (but was discovered to be more than that?). I think it even had some kind of interesting color-changing behavior.

There was lots of talk about space-dust being a problem at the speeds they were traveling, and I think there was an emergency or two involving related hull-breaches. They might have sealed them with expanding glue from specialized guns?

The main character was a man.

...there was a woman as part of the mission.

...there was a cocoon of some kind. I think related to the pet alien?

The title might also have had the word "topaz" in it.

marked as duplicate by Otis, Ward, Mithrandir, Gallifreyan, SQB Jun 4 '17 at 8:45

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    In case you haven't seen it take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit any more details. – Edlothiad May 23 '17 at 20:42
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Trapped in Space by Jack Williamson

This was a manned mission to the star named Topaz. It was a rescue mission to find an over-due prior mission which included the protagonist's big brother.

Included in the mission was a representative of an allied alien race. The alien was named "Buzz-dozen-dozen", was the size of a small dog, was multi-legged, and changed color with its emotion. It had an artificial cocoon which it retreated into in times of stress.

The woman crew member was born on the alien's planet when her parents crash-landed and died of their injuries. She works with Buzz.

Upon entry into the star system of Topaz, the ship is hit by a strong laser beam. This punches a hole in the hull, and the protagonist uses a specialized gun to fire a blob of hull sealant at the breech. The pilot can no longer drive the ship since the laser beam has damaged his eyesight. Buzz is a surgeon, and tried to repair the damage.

As it turns out, the system is mostly an asteroid belt. It is inhabited by octopoid aliens who live in deep space. They have organic lasers as part of their bodies, and are the ones who shot the ship. They can also trade tentacles between each other.

  • That's the one! Thanks! – Matt May 24 '17 at 14:46
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Several of the features you mention are strongly suggestive of the Norby novels by Isaac and Janet Asimov. The first book was published in 1983. http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/se.cgi?arg=norby&type=Fiction+Titles

The main character is Jeff Wells, and he goes on numerous adventures with his hyperspace- and time-traveling robot pal Norby, his brother Fargo, Fargo's girlfriend Albany Jones (who may be the female character you remember), and others.

The thing you remember that really suggests the Norby books is alien. Jeff obtains a alien "all-purpose pet" in one of the early books, and the alien can change shape, responding to Jeff telepathically; he can't exactly will her to change, but if he's thinking about something he might need, she will read his mind any polymorph into it. She also has a egg/cocoon shape that she takes on when in danger, which Jeff has to sing a song to open.

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