I'm trying to recall a novel that I read in the 80s/early 90s. Unfortunately I can't remember either the title or the author. Here's what I can remember:

  • There was a separate race of human being that lived in harmony with nature
  • The hero of the story ends up joining them and living with them
  • Much of the earth was, I think, barren of life
  • There was a hive mind or gaia type entity involved
  • One character was a mad/odd doctor or scientist that received messages from the hive mind, at one point via bacteria under his fingernails

I've been searching for it for some time, so any suggestions appreciated. IIRC it was a similar kind of novel to Radix, but doesn't seem to be any others by A. A. Attanasio.

  • A long shot would be Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest. There's no gaia entity but there is IIRC a kind of collective conciousness among the indigenous humans.
    – The Photon
    Jan 9, 2013 at 21:42
  • Some great answers in here, but unfortunately no-one has identified it yet.
    – ldodds
    Feb 5, 2013 at 12:10

6 Answers 6


The Majat in Serpent's Reach by Cherryh, C. J. are giant ant-like insectoids that are each a part of one of the four hive-minds in the world.

Raen, the female lead, is Kontrin (ruling class) and Meth-maren (Blue Hive Kontrain) with the Blue Hive jewels (chitin) bio-engineered permanently onto her arm.

Raen hides from the slaughter of her family in a Blue Hive and is, as the story develops a hive master.

One of my favorites.

  • I don't think its that book either. I don't recall any giant insectoids. More that there is some kind of gaia like intelligence
    – ldodds
    Jan 9, 2013 at 14:08

John Varley wrote a trilogy Titanide consisting of Titan, Wizard and Demon.

  • The Space Spation the crew crashes on is Gaea and is alive.
  • The hero ends up being the "High Priestess" to the Goddess.
  • The station is huge and mostly damaged and devoid of life. Really huge.
  • Cirocco, the heroine can communicate with Gaea and the Titanides though I do not recall anything about fingernails.

If you have read this story you would remember that a Titanide is like a centaur. In the second book (Wizard) the Titanids wake up and their sexuality is --- unique.

  • 1
    "The station is huge and mostly damaged and devoid of life." Uhm...that not how I remember it. Rather several of the regional ecologies were pretty messed up. One because the controling intelligence had read Dune and wanted to try making a sand worm. In any case, I don't think these are a good match for the question, though they are certainly a good read. Jan 9, 2013 at 18:58
  • Yes the regional "brains" were along the wheel @dmckee, it was the long climb up the one spoke they climbed that was also barren.
    – LantzR
    Jan 9, 2013 at 19:33

I remember this from years past, but had to search for the name Hellstrom's Hive by Frank Herbert.

  • Welcome to the site. It'd be great if you could expand upon your answer and maybe list out some ways that the story matches the details in the question.
    – phantom42
    Jan 27, 2013 at 20:07
  • Sounds like a great book, but its not the one I'm looking for
    – ldodds
    Feb 5, 2013 at 12:09
  • Having just read this novel, it's not the one I'm trying to remember. So this isn't an answer to my question.
    – ldodds
    Apr 16, 2020 at 16:43

Foundation and Earth has several of those items, could it be it?

  • No, I don't think it was that, as I've not read the whole Foundation series (oddly enough)
    – ldodds
    Jan 9, 2013 at 12:21

This sounds like it could be Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. At the very least, I know that the Ender series has some of those same elements.

  • Read the synopsis on Wikipedia but unfortunately not ringing any bells
    – ldodds
    Jan 9, 2013 at 14:08

Except for the bacterial communication, it sounds a lot like Out Of The Silent Planet from CS Lewis' Space Trilogy

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