Some things I remember:

  • Pretty sure the author was female
  • The novel had won some award or other
  • The title was one word (I think) and it started with "I" (I think)
  • It would have come out in the mid to late 90s or early 2000s
  • It was a paperback or trade paperback, in English. The book was originally written in English as far as I know.
  • The cover, if I remember correctly, had an orangish background.

The plot involved a sole human representative to what was effectively an alien "United Nations" type of organization. There were myriad types of aliens, many of whom were completely biologically incompatible. Even the ones that could live in the same conditions generally found each other either repugnant or incomprehensible.

The main character ended up feeling incredibly lonely and was "set up" with a superficially similar humanoid female, but found their pheromones were incompatible and it was still difficult to communicate.

  • 3
    Hi there! :) that's a good bunch of info already, but could you take a look at this guide, see if that triggers any more memories to edit? Like, did you read that in English/other? Was it a translation? Any idea what the cover looked like?
    – Jenayah
    Aug 9, 2018 at 15:31

2 Answers 2


OK, it's been killing me, but I finally found the book I was thinking of -- Becoming Alien. I had not remembered everything correctly -- notably the title was way off and the year of publication is 1988. For some reason I recall reading it quite a bit later than that.

Rebecca Ore did not win any awards for Becoming Alien, but she was shortlisted for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is almost certainly what I recalled. The book itself was nominated for a Philip K. Dick award.

I also apparently lost most of the plot and really fixated on the emotional distance Tom experienced while living on the station, which probably didn't help people in identifying the story.

16-year old boy finds an alien crash-landed on a farm and ends up being recruited to join the Federation of Sapients - and adventuring out among the stars.

First book of a trilogy, although ends in a way that does not require continuation to the other books. Sequels are "Being Human" and "Human to Human". Finalist for the 1989 Philip K. Dick Award. Nominated for the John W. Campbell Award. Nominated for the 1988 Locus Awards.

Becoming Alien cover -- Rebecca Ore

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    I've edited in the Goodreads summary because it has some extra information 1) Is the first of a trilogy and 2) It was also nominated for the 1988 Locus Awards.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Aug 10, 2018 at 8:16

A few points of similarity to C.S. Friedman's This Alien Shore

  • Female author
  • New York Times Notable Book of the Year
  • Released 1998

It is the second stage of human colonization--the first age, humanity's initial attempt to people the stars, ended in disaster when it was discovered that Earth's original superluminal drive did permanent genetic damage to all who used it--mutating Earth's far-flung colonists in mind and body. Now, one of Earth's first colonies has given humanity back the stars, but at a high price--a monopoly over all human commerce. And when a satellite in Earth's outer orbit is viciously attacked by corporate raiders, an unusual young woman flees to a ship bound for the Up-and-Out.

The female protagonist winds up on a ship populated by myriad human variants, some of whom are quite alien and winds up feeling very alone. The main male character is from a variant that is very tech-oriented and has challenges reading emotion, which complicates communication.

Woman on spaceship

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    This is not the one I was thinking of, although it sounds very interesting!
    – mwigdahl
    Aug 9, 2018 at 17:46
  • It's a very nice book, but there are lots more humans than aliens on the space station. Aug 10, 2018 at 8:10

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