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Doing a deep dive into unsolved "story identification" questions on another forum, I came across two different people seeking this book about 10 years ago - neither got an answer. I have not been able to figure it out and thought I'd see if the brain trust here can give it a shot.

The novel or novella is from the 70s. The cover is an image of an old man's face merging with that of an ape-like alien. The story: A professor (or scientist) finds that he can send his mind/consciousness out (when asleep or meditating (?)) into the body of a juvenile member of an ape-like species on a distant world. He becomes a leader of these aliens and teaches them to use tools and develop a society. The ape-like aliens that make up his tribe are in competition with another, cro-magnon-like tribe. It is essentially an arms race between the two. The twist at the end: While awake on Earth, our protagonist discovers another human male is sending his mind into the body of the leader of the cro-magnon tribe.

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  • What site is the question from? Can you link to the original question? Have you paraphrased the description, or copied it verbatim?
    – user14111
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 0:31
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    Initially I thought it might be "Before Adam" by Jack London. Until you mentioned he meets another person, who is doing the same, except with the opposing tribe.
    – NJohnny
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 0:36
  • I have combined and paraphrased. But here is a link to one of them: sffchronicles.com/threads/541349
    – Cassfrank
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 4:10
  • HOmer Eon Flint wrote two stories about characters using mind projection to inhabit the bodies of natives of other worlds about 1920. And they were published together in a paperback book, The Devolutionist and the Emancipatrix, in the 1960s. gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/1592 But I don't remember whether any character inhabited the mind of an ape man so this is a long shot. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 12:27

2 Answers 2

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SOLVED! After searching for what feels like millennia for this book, I finally stumbled across the cover today. This novel is John Robert Russell's Cabu (1974).

Here is the blurb: "George Piget was only human. A frail history professor with just a few months to live, he dreamed of having the power of a Caesar, the genius of a Napoleon, the ruthless cunning of a Hitler. Then one day he awoke from a deep sleep to find himself in the dark, primitive world of Cabu, where to be 'only human' was to be the highest form of life. At first he was terrified of the huge lizardlike beasts that stalked him on the vast plains, of the hairy subhuman creatures that made him one of their own. But then his memory of human history took hold, and he plotted to make his dream of world domination come true..."

And the cover, as the OPs originally described exactly:

enter image description here

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    Nice! Thanks for returning and posting the answer. Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 19:39
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Perhaps this is Jack London's short novel Before Adam (1906), with the cover image of this 1970 paperback.

Story is narrated by a modern-day human who has memories of a particular ancestor from before history, and experiences them as dreams. It does prominently feature competition with another tribe, that of the Fire-People, who are coordinated more effectively by a leader and have more technology than the ancient protagonist's tribe, including fire and arrows. The tool use that you mention is prominently featured starting from chapter 10: the protagonist and his companion swim on a lake by grabbing onto logs and paddling, and then use this to cross a river that they had no way to cross before that invention. Not all details match, and in particular it does not have the twist ending that you mention.

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  • no aliens. sounds wrong.
    – releseabe
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 11:47
  • @releseabe I think that part works enough for a recollection from memory, especially when the narrator emphasizes “I have said that in my dreams I never saw a human being.”.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 12:18
  • While I think it was clearly influenced by something like Before Adam - mostly the idea of consciousness or mind-transfer - I don't think it is the book we're after. Primarily because both references I've seen to the mystery book say it is set on another planet and that the tribal humanoids are not human ancestors but aliens. It also seems the cover is very clearly a man's face morphing or overlapping a face of one of these ape-like aliens.
    – Cassfrank
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 15:56

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