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Kind of a longshot, because I have fuzzy memories of this at best, really only the beginning of it. A man from our Earth somehow gets transported to a desert world where buildings are made out of salt because there's so little water. He thinks he's entirely human until he tries to urinate and finds that he excretes crystals instead, all water being retained in his body. I want to say that he compares himself to a kangaroo rat at that point.

I read this in middle school or so, so it's late 80s at the least, and probably older. I read it as a paperback in my brother's sci-fi/fantasy collection.

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  • Reminiscent of Dune of course (Muad'dib meant kangaroo rat) but nothing else matches. Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 23:06
  • I vaguely remember a short story, possibly by Tiptree, with aliens that had a water-less biology. They excreted dry materials through the tip of their prehensile tails, and used it to make pictures. The story was written from alternating points of view, alien and human.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 0:24
  • This is officially driving me crazy because I remember this one too. I think it may be by van Vogt but haven't been able to narrow it down. Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 17:28
  • Huh. While it's not the answer, did you know that some versions of H.G. Wells ''The Time Machine'' included Man-Kangaroo Rat hybrids?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 18:13

2 Answers 2

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That's the first book in the Gandalara Cycle, The Steel of Raithskar.

The main character is on a cruise ship, talking to a lovely young lady, until he sees a meteor coming at them. The next thing he knows, he wakes in a desert. He seems human enough, but later discovers very prominent canines, and that his body is adapted to conserve water. (He first notices when he urinates and it almost instantly turns to crystals.)

Most people don't live in salt buildings, but there is a group that maintains oasis type camps that do; they are able to acquire water in the middle of the desert through means that our Hero comes to understand in one of the later books.

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  • 1
    I must have been conflating the salt bricks with something else. I found an excerpt of the book and it's got everything, including the reference to the kangaroo rat. Excellent work, sir or madam.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 22:26
  • 1
    @SeanDuggan -- Well, the Fa'aldu do build their oasis camps from salt blocks, covered with tents. Our hero looks at himself in the reflection of one, the licks his finger and rubs it, discovering that it is made of salt, very early in the story.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 22:27
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I found the van Vogt story I was thinking of; it has some points of similarity but not 100%. It's Enchanted Village and can be read on Google Books

Pros: Earthman stranded on desert planet, undergoes transformation

Cons: Village not made of urine but is an organic entity

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    Ah. Sorry, but it's not the one. Entertaining story, but not the one. And, to clarify, the walls were made out of salt blocks and his urine was crystals, not that the walls were made out of urine. :-/
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 22:19

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