I borrowed this novel from my local library several years ago. Set on a waterworld, it has genetically modified aquatic humans who are now in conflict with the original plan to terraform it. Any ideas? I can't remember title or author and have googled to no avail.

The background is that the standard colonisation pattern for not quite Earth type planets are initially colonised by genetically modified humans as terraforming is begun, but as this reaches its final phases the altered humans are phased out. However on this planet they are trying to challenge the process.

The people aren't radically altered, no gills or tentacles! Just a bit plump, and better swimmers, more like Selkies than mermaids.

  • 4
    That's not enough to go on. What else do you remember about the book? Who were the protagonist(s) and the antagonists? Did the book happen entirely on the water world or was it set in a larger universe? Was the book marketed for young adults or adults? How many is several years? The first thing that comes to my mind is *[Reefsong]*(kirkusreviews.com/features/…) by Carol Severance, which has a distinguishing feature of having a lot of Polynesian cultural elements, but there must be hundreds of matching books.
    – user56
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 23:45
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    As Giles says, more details would help. My first thought was 'The Lazarus Effect' by Frank Herbert -- It's been many years since I read it, tho, so it's unlikely to be it.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 21:43
  • Lazarus Effect was my first guess too. I don't think there were tera-formed humans in it though; not swimmers anyways.
    – JSM
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 23:35

4 Answers 4


I was searching for the same thing/same terms and Blueheart (1996) by Alison Sinclair was the right answer for me.

There’s all the stuff about modified humans, terraforming and the conflict between those interests, but there’s also a murder mystery at the heart of the plot. There’s also this critical element that almost everywhere is under surveillance, but the camera feeds are fully public.

It is set in a larger universe but travel between worlds is very rare.

From Goodreads:

Of all the worlds discovered by star-wondering humanity, Blueheart with its endless, storm-tossed seas is the most beautiful. And the most doomed. Plans are already being made to terraform the planet into another Earth.But deep under the floating forests, the renegade Adoptives -- the planet's first colonists -- have another dream: The creation of a new aquatic human subspecies. As their struggle erupts into violence, Rache is called back to the seas, where he must choose between his humanity and his world.

  • It's already been mentioned above, but your answer is clearer :) I added a Goodreads summary just in case.
    – Jenayah
    Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 20:32

I can't say for sure, but I've read Blueheart (1996) by Alison Sinclair and your description reminds me of it. Here is the book's page on the author's website.


Another possibility is The Songs of Distant Earth (1986) by Arthur C. Clarke. From Wikipedia:

The novel is set in the early 3800s CE, and takes place almost entirely on the faraway oceanic planet of Thalassa. Thalassa has a small human population sent there by way of an embryonic seed pod, one of many sent out from Earth in an attempt to continue the human race before the Earth was destroyed.

The story begins with an introduction to the native Thalassans – the marine biologist Brant, his partner Mirissa and her brother Kumar. They are typical examples of the Thalassan culture; quiet, stable and free from religion and supernatural influence. Their peaceful existence comes to an end with the arrival of the Magellan, an interstellar spaceship from Earth containing one million colonists who have been put into cryonic suspension.

In a series of descriptive passages, the events leading up to the race to save the human species are explained.

I do seem to remember some humans genetically modified to make use of the aquatic environment but didn't seen anything to that effect in the plot description.


Check these out; A Door into Ocean, by Joan Slonczewski, 1986, and its sequel Daughter of Elysium, 1993.

Both are about a pacifist but pragmatic purple-skinned female race of humanoids who can do bioengineering and live on a waterworld. In the first book they certainly resist impending terraforming. Maybe it's the one you're looking for.

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