What I remember is alien creatures sailing a modular ship on a planet with very high gravity. I think the planet was doughnut shaped. They sailed to a region with lower gravity and witnessed another race of their species flying some sort of gliders.

The genre is Hard Science

The book was published sometime in 50s I think

  • Any chance you remember any more details? Take a look at this guide and see if you can edit in any more points it may help you remember. Such as when you read it, when it was published, etc.
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 23, 2018 at 8:02
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    "The genre is Hard Science." Not that hard, if it's got large lobster-like aliens in a high-gravity environment. The maximum size at which exoskeletal organisms are viable drops off dramatically with an increase in intensity of gravity. IRL earth lobsters are basically the result of bugs evolving in a lower-gravity environment (as the buoyancy in the water effectively simulates a lower gravity than is actually present). Feb 23, 2018 at 19:04
  • @MatthewNajmon Good info, but this question didn't say they had exoskeletons or were particularly large at all. Feb 24, 2018 at 14:17
  • @MatthewNajmon: Though I believe the limit is at least partially based on oxygen levels; if the planet's atmosphere was also highly oxygenated, the scaling issues with exoskeletal designs could be (at least partially) mitigated. Feb 24, 2018 at 15:21
  • @ShadowRanger Not quite. There are two separate limitations at work in the sorts of creatures we tend to most associate with exoskeletons (arthropods). The oxygen thing isn't actually directly associated with the exoskeleton; it's a limitation of the type of respiratory system that happens to be featured by the particular exoskeleton-users we're most familiar with. The gravity one is the limitation on arthropod size that's actually directly exoskeleton-related: the drawbacks of an exoskeleton get dramatically worse, and the benefits drop off, the bigger you get. Mar 6, 2018 at 23:11

2 Answers 2


About the nearest match I can think of is Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity. The planet, Mesklin, has a polar diameter a lot less than its equatorial one, and it rotates very fast, so that gravity at the poles is around 700g, but only 3g at the equator.

The main discrepancy is that, iirc, the natives resembled centipedes rather than lobsters, but memories (including mine) are imperfect, and cover illustrations don't always match the text, so that mismatch isn't necessarily conclusive.

In MoG, the ship is called the Bree and the Captain's name is Barlennan. Does either of those names ring a bell?

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    A version of the novel was published as a 4-part serial in Astounding which is available at the Internet Archive: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.
    – user14111
    Feb 23, 2018 at 8:56
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    I would suspect those names of being lifted from the barkeep and the location of the Prancing Pony, if it wasn't for the fact that Mission of Gravity was published marginally before The Fellowship of the Ring.
    – hobbs
    Feb 23, 2018 at 10:42
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    They did indeed encounter other natives that used gliders Feb 23, 2018 at 12:11
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    Also, Bree was a raft in segments -- raft because "hollow boats" collapse inward in very high gee, segments to allow reconfiguring for ocean and river travel.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Feb 23, 2018 at 12:20
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    @hobbs: Years ago I asked Hal Clement, and he told me that he did not read LotR until after MoG was published. And we know Tolkien wrote about Barliman and Bree long before Clement had even started MoG, so it is definitely an amazing coincidence.
    – Mark Olson
    Feb 23, 2018 at 14:01

Dragon's Egg by Robert L Forward also features creatures living in a high-g environment (the surface of a Neutron Star).

80s rather than 50s, I'm afraid, and it's been a long time since I've read it so I can't recall whether it's what you're looking for, but might be worth an investigate.

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    The neutron star natives, however, were more like ameobae who could grow crystalline bones when needed, than like lobsters (or centipedes with claws, as in Mission of Gravity). There was no sailing in Dragon's Egg (at least until the Cheela developed space travel of their own)-- no standing liquid on the degenerate matter crust of the titular neutron star.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Feb 23, 2018 at 12:18
  • A great book though!
    – Ilmari
    Feb 23, 2018 at 22:00
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    A wonderful book, but I must point out that even as a science-nerd adolescent, I noticed that the Cheela had remarkably human personalities. Well, one can't have everything.
    – Beta
    Feb 24, 2018 at 2:15

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