My partner has brought it to my attention that she is in search of a specific sci-fi book that she read 10-12ish years ago. Below is her word for word description of what she remembers:

I am looking for the title/author of a book I read 10-ish years ago. I remember the plot has a spunky lady character and a toad-ish guy. There is a space station in Venus(?) that moves around the planet constantly to avoid the heat of the sun. There might be tunnels on the planet too?? There is also a feature of the characters where they have mixed genders that is beyond our current male/female binary.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you be more specific about "mixed genders?" Are you talking combined/transitional forms (e.g. hermaphroditism) or voluntary bodily plasticity ("Today I'll be a manly man!")? Does your partner recall the cover art or book's appearance?
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 7 at 21:43
  • Making me think of Charles Stross and Saturn's Children (2008), but can't remember the details about the trip to Venus enough to be sure and don't have time to re-read it now. Commented Feb 7 at 22:12
  • The Space Merchants kind of fits.
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 7 at 23:49

3 Answers 3


I suspect that this is 2312, a hefty novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, first published in 2012.

The plot can be roughly described as "a mercurial woman from Mercury meets a saturnine man from Saturn". The woman, Swan Er Hong fits the description of the "spunky lady" from the question, and the man, Fitz Wahram, a diplomat from Titan could certainly be described as "toad-ish" - Robinson describes him as "prognathous, callipygous, steatopygous, exophthalmos – toad, newt, frog – even the very words were ugly"; with a "gravelly voice… froggy, yes, but relaxed, deep, thick… like a bassoon or a bass saxophone."

The moving city is called Terminator, and is actually on Mercury, rather than Venus. It moves at a slow walking pace along rails to remain in the shade as the planet rotates (until there is an accident...) A fuller summary from wikipedia summarises the story as:

The novel is set in the year 2312, in the great city of Terminator on Mercury, which is built on gigantic tracks in order to constantly stay in the planet's habitable zone near the terminator. Swan Er Hong, an artist and former asteroid terrarium designer, is grieving over the sudden death of her step-grandmother, Alex, who was very influential among the inhabitants of Terminator. After the funeral procession, a conference is held among the family and the close friends of Alex, some of whom Swan has never heard of. This includes Fitz Wahram, a native of the moon Titan, whom Swan dislikes. Following the conference, Swan decides to head out to Io to visit another friend of Alex's, called Wang, who has designed one of the largest qubes, or quantum computers. While Swan is visiting Wang on Io, an apparent attack of some sort fails. An attack on Terminator shortly follows; a meteorite of artificial origin destroys the city's tracks, stopping the city and exposing it to sun, essentially cooking it. As Swan travels, she learns more of the mystery surrounding her grandmother's death and the destruction of her home-city of Terminator. With Wahram and Genette, Swan travels throughout the Solar System and investigates an escalating series of conspiracies.

Characters have the option to be "bisexual", which in this case means hermaphrodites. A review notes that:

Robinson goes all-out in creating this future where people actually live longer (and perhaps forever) by becoming "bisexual" — which in this case means having the physicality of both genders. Swan, our hero of the book, is among those thus treated, and she is now more than 130 years old. Some Earth-bound minds are, of course, against such a "perversity," so there are moral battles to be fought. It doesn't stop there—some humans also experiment with splicing animal genes into their brains as well.

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    2312 also includes the tunnels mentioned by OP, also on Mercury.
    – Erin Anne
    Commented Feb 8 at 9:38
  • If destroying the tracks immediately results in cooking it, that means it's on the "dawn" side of the terminator, constantly driving back into the night. That's a huge design flaw. If it was on the "dusk" side, driving back into sundown, then a breakdown would send it into cold dark which would presumably be survivable and given Mercury's slow rotation would give them almost 30 days before they began to cook. Rookie mistake. :) Commented Feb 9 at 14:38

Could it be Venus and the Seven Sexes (1949) by William Tenn?

On the planet Venus, the native Plookhs are a delicacy eaten by the many ravenous carnivores on the planet, so delicious that even herbivores will take time to eat them. In order to survive, the Plookh reproduce with the participation of seven different sexes, ensuring constant mixing of their genes. The story is narrated by a nzred, one of the sexes, describing his past glories to his children.

Years after first contact, human "bottle-conjugating" film director Hogan Shlestertrap arrives on Venus. A nzred, shafalon, is assigned to meet with him. Considering the posting to be punishment for a failed movie, Shlestertrap intends to make an epic that will make him powerful in Hollywood once again. As the nzred describes the Plookh's complex reproduction, Shlestertrap decides to produce a love story, "Srob meets mlenb, tkan loses guur, flin gets blap".


Dancing with Eternity, published in 2011, is a loose match.

It's set in a far future where people commonly modify their bodies in various ways. The protagonist, Mo, resembles not a toad, but a lizard, and the deuteragonist, Captain Steel, is fairly commanding. The heroes' mission is to reach a dangerous planet known as "Brainard's Planet" to conduct an experiment—from what I remember, the atmosphere had some kind of toxin, requiring the crew to stay in a shielded environment, which could have been remembered as Venus-like.

The novel doesn't seem to have a Wikipedia summary, but I found a Goodreads review with a synopsis here.

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