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Some time around 1998 I read a book (which is surely older) suggested by one of my friends. Since this is the first time posting for me I'll do my best to give all the details I can recall.

The main protagonist is a white male (who I believe has cancer and/or is very old) on a boat that gets hit by a comet or meteor or some kind of astronomical event. He wakes up in the body of a young dying male in a desert and meets a telepathic cat that was bonded with the dying male.

The beginning of the book is about the protagonist learning to navigate his body, the bonds with the people his body knew and the telepathic cat. The two have to learn to trust one another. The "bond" is a two-way lifelink, if one dies so does the other.

We learn later that others on that boat suffered much the same fate shifting into new bodies in this parallel dimension including a female he had fancied or met back on the boat. Her body is also bonded to a telepathic "riding" cat. While I can't remember if anyone else on the boat also switched over, I feel like at least one other person did who was an antagonist but I can't verify it in my brain.

The protagonist is trying to find "something", but I can't remember what. I seem to recall jewels or gems and an important sword. Like, a hilt that's important and has an invisible blade? I remember certain scenes but without enough information for them to feel useful.

Such scenes as:

  • They end up in a huge palace with a verdant garden that they later escape from, for some reason.
  • The protagonist gets super injured at one point and the cat struggles with him so they both survive.
  • He keeps having flash backs to the incident on the boat.
  • For a long while the cat hates this guy who basically has supplanted his master/friend, but it's okay since that guy dying would have killed the cat.

The only thing I can recall about the title is "The [blank] cycle(s)" and all my searching has come to naught. It was a series of books, I know that.

The cover showed the main protagonist, the female "love interest" and their cats in the sun bleached desert. I recall that the female has very short cut dark hair. The protagonist is wearing a white "turban" of some sort.

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The novel you are looking for seems to be Gandalara Cycle

From wikipedia

  • Ricardo Carillo, an aging language professor with a terminal illness, is flirting with a captivating young woman on a Mediterranean cruise ship. They both watch with wonder, and a growing horror, as a dazzlingly beautiful star quickly grows to engulf the sky and then crashes into the ship.

  • Ricardo awakens in a blinding hot desert, with no idea where he is and a dead man by his side.

  • Without knowing how or why, Ricardo finds himself inhabiting the body of a strong, healthy, young man named Markasset. Ricardo quickly learns that Markasset is wanted for murder and the theft of a precious and powerful gemstone, the Ra'ira.

  • Ricardo has only a smattering of Markasset's memories, and no idea if he is guilty or innocent.
  • But with the help of a giant warcat named Keeshah, with whom he shares a telepathic bond, and the beautiful illusionist, Tarani, Ricardo sets out on a quest to recover the missing gemstone and clear his new name.

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