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I'm looking for a book I started reading as a teen in Russia in the mid 90's. I believe it was translated from English. I bought it along with a book from Christopher Stasheff, Warlock in Spite of Himself.

RESEARCH:

  • I Googled various online Russian book sellers.
  • Searched Goodreads "Top 10" Sci-Fi lists from 80's and 90's.
  • Asked around Facebook sci-fi groups

Results: someone pointed me to Jack Vance's The Chasch book series. I'm currently two chapters in with a very similar plot but it doesn't quite match the details I remember. (Possibly I've forgotten, mixing some details up)

DETAILS I REMEMBER FROM THE BOOK:

  • The cover had beautiful artwork of people or humanoid riders on huge mounts with tall necks
  • The story begins with a space pilot (possibly one person fighter) crash-landing on a desolate planet
  • He is wounded and taken captive by an unfriendly nomadic alien race
  • The aliens travel through a desolate place (I think it's covered in snow) in a caravan
  • The aliens ride huge furry mounts with tall tube like necks (see image below for similar image)
  • There is a limited food supply, but I SPECIFICALLY REMEMBER WARM, BITTER MILK the main character drinks

The book had a similar cover but creatures were furry

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  • 1
    From the description, this belongs to the sub-genre known as planetary romance. Maybe that can help you in your search. Mar 6, 2020 at 8:35
  • 3
    I have Vance's Planet of Adventure novels (City of the Chasch etc) and I'm fairly certain there is nothing in them about drinking milk, bitter or otherwise. Mar 6, 2020 at 8:36
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    Faint (very!) thoughts of an obscure C.J. Cherryh book
    – Danny Mc G
    Mar 6, 2020 at 17:35
  • This could even be A Princess of Mars.
    – Spencer
    Aug 22, 2020 at 17:17

2 Answers 2

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Many details match Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh (as per the comment by DannyMcG). Many details differ.

  • Humans are stranded on an alien world. The main part of the story is several centuries after the landing, and the main character (Bren Cameron) is a trained diplomat, not a pilot. There is an introduction about how the humans got shipwrecked in the first place, which features bridge crew.
  • The aliens are less advanced than the humans, but catching up quickly due to a land-for-tech deal. No longer nomadic.
  • Outside the major towns, riding animals (mecheiti) are used which match your description.
  • Cameron is taken captive by a faction of the aliens.
  • Cameron is poisoned by alien tea. An alien physician, without access to human-specific drugs, prescribes a glass of milk every three hours until the milk no longer tastes bitter like the tea. They serve warm milk, but a half-dazed Cameron insists on cold milk.
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  • Thank you for your reply. I'm very familiar with C.J. Cherryh's work and did some research into her books but couldn't find what I was looking for. As you mentioned, only some details match but thank you for the effort.
    – Ben
    Mar 8, 2020 at 16:49
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I read a very similar book in 1990s in Poland. It was called Options by Robert Sheckley.

Options is a 1975 absurdist science fiction novel by Robert Sheckley. The story is ostensibly about a marooned space traveller's attempt to get a spare part for his starship, the Intrepid III. He has a robotic guard, programmed to guard him against all planetary dangers. But soon he discovers that the robot has not been programmed for the planet where they are, with comic results. However, the narrative later descends into a mass of diversions, non-sequiturs and meditations on the nature of authorship. Eventually the diversions take over the book to the extent that the author openly introduces an increasingly bizarre succession of deus ex machina in an attempt to get the novel back on track, but eventually admits defeat.

Front cover of Options

The book was similar in the sense that had very similar book cover, the story is about a lonely pilot, who crashed on a planet, he also drinks weird milk, which induces hallucinations. Not all is matching, but I thought it was worth to share.

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    Could you elaborate a bit more on the specific ways in which the plot of the book you named matches the one described by the OP? Apr 4, 2021 at 0:55

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