I am looking to recall a book I read 20 years ago.

  • A journalist/anthropologist man (human) studies aliens.

  • He uses various techniques to get close to hard to study aliens.

  • He starts to use tech to modify his body so he can get closer to the aliens or study them better.

  • By the end of the book his body is so modified he no longer sees himself as human, and indeed has more or less forgotten his human roots.

  • It was in English.

  • "by the end of the book" he was modified and no longer saw himself as human (ergo... nothing happened after that, that was the end of the book).

  • His motivations are (journalist/anthropologist) he was there to simply study the aliens (there may have side stuff to that plot, I forget).

  • How he modified himself (to the best of my memory) = technology. (surgery, and part grafting and other I do not recall).

  • What he learned from the aliens (their physiology and culture).

  • Where was he studying them? = On their home worlds.

  • How did he get access to them? = I don't fully recall (space flight seemed to be a thing, but unimportant to the plot).

  • Was their presence known to other humans? (Sorta, kinda like Jane Goodall, he would go find new species and study them, I don't recall how the rest of the books universe heard of the aliens.)

  • It was a standalone book, not a part of a series.

  • It was fairly short, maybe... 350 pages or so.

  • Each chapter showed the protagonist's mind having slightly more trouble with human concepts or speech patters.

  • It is somewhat like reading the protagonists' 'journal'.

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    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! This question would be improved by going through the checklists here; How to ask a good story-ID question?
    – Valorum
    Aug 2, 2018 at 17:38
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    Well you've certainly not told us what language you read it in, whether it was part of a series of books, what the main character's name was, whether there were other characters (human/alien), what his motivation for learning about the aliens is, whether there was a love-interest, who the book was aimed at (YA fiction, adults?), what modifications he made to himself, how he got to them, how they got to us, what happened after he decided he wasn't human, what the cover looked like, what he learned from the aliens, etc
    – Valorum
    Aug 2, 2018 at 17:45
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    While it's not a great match, it does have a lot of similarities with Clifford D. Simak's short story "Desertion". goodreads.com/book/show/16029136-desertion Aug 2, 2018 at 18:26
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    Desertion by Clifford D. Simak is Not the correct book. But yeah, it is kinda similar... thanks for the suggestion! Aug 2, 2018 at 18:38
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    @Vanguard3000 When I first read this question I immediately thought of that story, but forgot what it was called. Thanks for saving me from posting my own question :p Aug 3, 2018 at 0:48

2 Answers 2


Could it be Mike Resnick's A Miracle of Rare Design? It seems to have the elements you described above. From this review:

In "Miracle of Rare Design" he brings his character Lennox. A thrill seeking, with a self-centered ego.After being brutally assaulted by a Firefly alien race, left for dead. Lennox gets the opportunity to return as a Firefly. After mastering its movements and native tongue he tries to make a deal with the alien race for planet earth.

In change of events, the missions keep coming taking him to other alternate planets to become one of their alien race and learn there way of living, one transformation leads to another like an addiction. Returning to human doesn't seem right....read and find out the path Lennox chooses.

A Miracle of Rare Design front cover

  • That's it! That's the book. I looked through my library all night last night and could not find it. Thank you so much! Aug 3, 2018 at 15:48

I believe you are referencing "Sentenced to Prism" by Alan Dean Foster.

The Company has a problem. They've discovered a new world and their presence there isn't quite exactly legal. But the payoffs could be huge, so they've sent down a full research team with labs and defensive outpost. But the team has gone silent. The Company needs Evan to go in alone and find out what is going on. One man, alone, won't draw the attention of rival companies, the United Church or the Peace Forcers. Equipped with a suit of mobile armor with the latest gadgets, Evan is all set to investigate the mysteries of Prism.

Unfortunately, neither The Company or Evan are truly prepared for what Prism holds.

Evan finds the remains of the base and it is overrun by prismatic lifeforms feasting on all the rare-earth metals in the base. All of the staff, except for one Martine Ophemert, are dead. Evan begins the process of tracking down the missing staff member. During his pursuit, his suit, his superdupercan'tbreakcansolveeverything suit fails. Evan is forced to proceed on foot and comes into contact with a native, a scout named Azure. Azure saves Evan's life and they head back to Azure's Associative.

There Evan finds a fully functioning society. The lifeforms of Prism have all specialized and then come together instead of being multi-use creatures that standalone. Evan gives them the idea of a battery, as they are all photovores so they can function through the night. In turn they grow him a locator so he can track down Martine easier.

On the way to finding Martine's tracker, the group is attacked and Evan is partially destroyed. The Associative rebuilds him so he is part biological and part Prismatic. A true synthesis of Prism and the Commonwealth. They rescue Martine, who has also been rebuilt by another Associative and they all head back to the base to try to contact The Company.

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    While a very close general set of ideas, this is not the book. I assuredly recall there never being mentions of Prismatics. As well, there is no plot to go find a base and missing crew. In the book I am trying to find, the Protagonist travels a fair amount and studies at least 4 to 6 different alien cultures. Lastly, the alien cultures in the book I am looking for were not hostile or part of any disaster. This was more like a book about David Attenborough simply studying aliens so much - he became one to study them better and ultimately forgot his humanity altogether. Thanks though! Aug 2, 2018 at 19:19
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    I agree. This mostly matches, but not on spirit. Still, close enough for an upvote.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 2, 2018 at 20:34
  • Man Plus?en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_Plus
    – sueelleker
    Aug 3, 2018 at 16:02

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