Sci Fi / Young Adult - Hardback book that I checked out of the middle school library sometime around '94/'95. Do not remember any other details about the author or cover.

Plot: From what I can remember, the story involves two separate human factions (possibly Americans and Russians), that land on an alien planet. They discover a native sentient species, that is somewhat barbaric or in early stages of development. The natives are symmetrical, with multiple eyes/mouths/arms/tentacles spread evenly over their bodies. Think of a chess pawn, put 3+ or so legs around the base, spaced evenly. Same for arms/tentacles, mouths, eyes, sensor pods, etc.

At first, the Russians and Americans attempt to communicate with the natives, learning their language, culture, conduct trading etc. However, at some point, something changes (can't remember this detail), and the Americans and Russians start fighting one another, either indirectly or by involving the natives. I think they may even helped form and arm their own factions of the natives to set against one another.

Hopefully this jars someones memory.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site. You have a good start here. If you could take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit in any more details, that would be great. Every little bit helps us.
    – amflare
    Feb 9, 2018 at 17:26

1 Answer 1


You may well be thinking of Harry Turtldove's "A World of Difference" first published in 1990. This is the blurb from GoodReads. Linky

When the Viking lander on the planet Minerva was destroyed, sending back one last photo of a strange alien being, scientists on Earth were flabbergasted. And so a joint investigation was launched by the United States and the Soviet Union, the first long-distance manned space mission, and a symbol of the new peace between the two great rivals.

Humankind's first close encounter with extraterrestrials would be history in the making, and the two teams were schooled in diplomacy as well as in science. But nothing prepared them for alien war -- especially when the Americans and the Soviets found themselves on opposite sides...

Minerava, the alien planet in the blurb is Mars. In this universe, Mars was substantially bigger than the one we know, allowing it to hold an atmosphere and sustain life.

The Alien lifeforms in question are radially symetrical, with 6 sets of everything. They're basically a hexagonal tube with legs, arms and eyes branching off each segment and a mouth on top.

Both the Russian and American spacecraft are aiming to land in the same location. The place that the Viking I space probe landed, where it was promptly destroyed by a native tool user. As they approach Minerva, the American's get an update from home letting them know that everyone's been wrong for decades about where the probe landed, leading the American's to land somewhere different.

Turns out that the two areas are antagonistic countries for want of a better word and the two crews do get involved in a local war. The Russians are essentially blackmailed with "help us, or we stop talking to you" and the American's feel forced to balance that help out.

The Americans have a sort of bicycle powered aircraft if that rings any bells for you.

  • This sounds like it is the right book. The radially symmetrical description is what I remember of the aliens. Thanks! Feb 12, 2018 at 15:11

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