I'm trying to recall the title and author of a book I read when I was younger, in the mid to late 80s.

From what I recall, the vast majority of the story took place on an alien jungle/forest planet. The aliens were solitary primitive humanoids, with their level of technology along the lines of pre-colonial native americans. They could transfer their minds to another alien upon their death, where they would live on as a personality aspect of this new host. The host alien could contain multiple other personality aspects, and they fulfilled certain roles for the host such as a warrior/protector, shaman/healer, parent, etc... and in effect gain a type of immortality.

Humans are aware of this planet and the aliens ability and arrive to take this ability by force. I think that time-travel played a part in the story, but it was a minor detail if I recall correctly.

I've been trying to find this book for a while now, off and on, and it's now at the point that it's driving me crazy. Any help at all would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • It seems similar to Alan Dean Foster's "Midworld": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midworld - though as the Wikipedia article doesn't go into detail on the "furcot" it may not be an exact match. Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 20:18
  • Also some similarities with Roger Zelazny's "Lord of Light": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_Light - though from the sound of it the humans took over very early on in that book. Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 20:43
  • 3
    And. although it's a film released about 25 years later, James Cameron's "Avatar" Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 20:47
  • Thanks, but it’s not Midworld or Lord of Light — sounds really similar, but it’s not them.
    – user131723
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 22:07
  • Was definitely thinking of this book when I saw Avatar
    – user131723
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 22:08

3 Answers 3


Is it possible you're remembering Judgement on Janus (1973) by Andre Norton?

After Niall Renfro is shipped out of the Dipple, he is indentured on Janus to help the colonists clear the dense and invasive forest that crowds their homesteads (garths). Although we find out in the sequel that the entire world is not forested, the impression here is of an endless forest.

After Niall discovers some alien trinkets he comes down with a "green" sickness and the colonists quarantine him and then throw him into the forest. As he recovers, he finds he has been transformed and implanted with the knowledged and skills of a long-dead Iftin, Ayyar of Iftcan.

There isn't any actual time travel but Niall, as Ayyar, does sometimes see things that were more that what is.

  • Thanks, but no, it's not Judgement on Janus.
    – user131723
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 16:30

A lot of this reminds me of Simon R Green's Ghostworld

A galaxy-spanning empire of humans has a base on a planet called Unseeli; as I recall, there are trees there made mainly of a metal that's very useful in hyperdrives.

Unfortunately, the natives also need the trees - the trees can store memories and personalities, and manifest them again (hence the Ghost part of the title.)

'Ghostworld' has a trouble-shooting starship captain arriving to investigate why the Empire's base has gone all quiet.

There's no time travel in the story that I can remember, but the planet is visited in his later Deathstalker books, and time travel does play a minor role in that....

  • It’s not this one either, but it sounds interesting — going to add it to my reading list. Thanks!
    – user131723
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 23:29

This is a bit of a long shot but here goes.

I think this might be the novella The Crystal Ship by Joan D Vinge. Collected in The Crystal Ship ed. Robert Silverburg, 1976 and Eyes of Amber and Other Stories by Joan D Vinge, 1979 (which is where I read it).

From Eyes of Amber on goodreads

'The Crystal Ship', inspired by The Doors song of the same name, is another meeting between human and alien cultures, only this time a fully developed one with a significant back history. A colony of humans have become all but extinct, those that remain are addicted to a native narcotic and orbit suspended above the planet in the Crystal Ship, 'the dream world where all griefs were forgotten'. Then a woman named Tarawassie breaks out of her lassitude, forming a symbiotic relationship with one of the 'Real People' from whom she learns many secrets.

From The Crystal Ship, also on goodreads

The first story (The Crystal Ship, Joan Vinge) is an interesting tale of the meeting of a decadent star-spanning human civilization with a furry, collective native race—but the native race's special ability to commune with their neighbors and their ancestors, rather than helping them, causes them to refuse any change or progress and stick to huddling in drafty tents in the cold, fighting among themselves. Their special ability has become an evolutionary dead end. Just as the human "Starmen's" addiction to fantasy has killed theirs.

From my own, hazy recollection. The human's were dying out, lost in their dreams. There was still a human city on the planet's surface, abandoned but being maintained by machines. There had been some conflict with the natives in the past and the natives were not well disposed towards the humans. The marsupial-like natives (I'm sure pouches were involved somewhere) could share memories between themselves and also with humans.

A human woman, Tarawassie, goes down to the abandoned city and eventually meets up with Moon Shadow, one of the natives. Against all custom, Moon Shadow helps Tarawassie and they share memories.

I think that time-travel played a part in the story, but it was a minor detail if I recall correctly.

There is a broken (or incomplete) portal connecting the planet to the rest of the human star-faring civilisation. Tarawassie goes through, presumably to get help. The risk is that if the portal cannot be repaired then she will have to return by starship at sub light speeds, taking years or decades.

A final note says Moon Shadow never sees her again. He is shunned by the other natives and never shared his memory again.

In the afterword the author mentions that she made the ending too subtle. The story is told in the first person from both protagonists perspective. That is supposed to imply that Tarawassie made it back, managed a reconciliation with the natives, and shared her memories and Moon Shadows.

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