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Maybe someone can help me.

Bear in mind that it's coming from the vaults of my memories. What I remember:

  • I came across it in the mid-nineties while I was a teen. It may have been from long before since my grandma only had old "classic era" books like 50s/60s, but it may also have been at someone's else house so I can't date the book. I only know that it's not from after the mid-90s.
  • I only SUPPOSE it was American. I'm French so it could have been a translation from whatever language, but PROBABLY American (or English.)
  • It was about chaos theory, I'm certain about it, that was mentioned on the back cover, and it was the first time I ever heard of chaos theory.
  • There was a spaceship that was coming back from somewhere, and it was different. I THINK it was all mirrored (like, the ship and the people were mirrors of themselves, the heart was in the wrong place and such.)

I have no idea how the "chaos theory" had any relation with the fact that the ship was coming back weird. I just know it was mentioned on the back cover.

That's all, I'm sorry I don't have more. It's been gnawing at me. At the time I was unable to read the book, it was too complex for me. I'd love to give it a try now that I'm much older.

2 Answers 2

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This sounds like "The Patterns of Chaos" (1972) by Colin Kapp.

Front and back cover of on edition of Patterns of Chaos click to enlarge

Earth's Stellar Commando has placed their secret agent Commander Bron on a planet where they hope he will be able to find out the coordinates of a rival space empire, the Destroyers. Bron is there to impersonate a famous scientist of interest to the Destroyers, and has been given implants through which a monitoring team can see what he sees, hear what he hears and talk to him, even when separated by interstellar distances. The plot hinges on a fictional science, the study of the entropic "patterns of Chaos", which allows predictions of events with an accuracy that was not before possible. Both Earth and the Destroyers—and specifically Bron himself—are discovered to be the target of an extraterrestrial interstellar murder campaign that was hatched 700 million years ago. He succeeds in joining together the Earth and Destroyer fleets and confronts the aliens, to discover that his destiny is inextricably entangled with theirs.

It's a minor part of the story but one character had been on a ship which was mirrored and the fact his heart was on the wrong side was specifically mentioned.

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  • 1
    Thank you, I'm going to check this, but it certainly looks like it could be it!
    – Pyloric
    Commented Jul 11, 2022 at 21:01
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I wonder if this is one of Jeffrey A. Carver's Chaos Chronicles, probably the second book Strange Attractors (1995). The time frame fits, there are a lot of reference to chaos theory ("strange attractor" is a term that crops up in conjunction with chaos theory) and it is set in space (as opposed to the first book, Neptune Crossing which is mostly set on or near Neptune's moon Triton).

The blurb for Strange Attractors starts out:

From the acclaimed author of Neptune Crossing comes a new novel of one man caught in a web of chaos theory, contending with mysterious forces that threaten the fate of an entire civilization.

In one wrenching moment, space pilot John Bandicut saves the Earth and sacrifices himself by ramming his ship into a runaway comet. Next he knows, he and the quarx—a benign alien intelligence that inhabits his mind—find themselves far across the galaxy on Shipworld, an artificial construct as large as Earth's solar system.

There is also a review quote on the back from Gregory Benford that specifically calls out chaos theory.

I'm not sure about the "coming back wrong" part, but one of the ways that various alien species are able to interact is through a process called "normalization" that involves tweaking their biology to, for instance, tolerate a different air mixture or much higher atmospheric pressures. The Big Bad in this book is part of Shipworld and can mess with everyone's minds and physiologies:

Accompanied by his nonhuman allies, John Bandicut will confront this monstrous power, which controls the very surface they walk upon and is capable of subverting everything, organisms or machines—even their own minds—on Shipworld.

Cover of "Strange Attractors" showing a spaceship in flight

The book is available to borrow from the Internet Archive (for registered users).

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