I know someone trying to remember the title of an old book but they can only describe it as this ...

The “protagonist” is a member of a spherical alien race. They use needle thin “jets” of liquid for locomotion and defence. The beginning of the story shows how the protagonist grew up on his home world, amongst his fellow aliens. They spent a great deal of time trying to avoid their natural predators, a race of scorpion like aliens, that distended their stomachs outside their bodies to digest prey. There was a third race of armoured plant-like aliens also living on the world.

The second half of the story see the “protagonist” leave his home world and team up with a human… and highlights the clash between the two very different physiologies. (for example… the alien uses the word “food” as a swear word as it is a disgusting concept to him… given he derives energy from sunlight and built in chemical process)


This is Thousandstar, the fourth book of Pier's Anthony's Cluster series.

  • The protagonist is Heem of Highfalls, a HydrO. The HydrO are spherical and use jets of water for propulsion and for defense; they spray flavored water to communicate.

  • HydrO do not eat; they draw energy from the air, which contains both hydrogen and oxygen in sufficient quantities to metabolize.

  • The narrative goes back and forth between Heem's youth in Highfalls and his participation as an adult in an interstellar competition.

  • In Heem's youth, his friend was killed and eaten by an alien, later identified as a Squam:

Efficiently, the monster reduced Hoom's body to juicy pieces. Then the most sickening thing of all occurred. The thing extruded its own internal membrane and spread it over Hoom's pieces. Heem tasted the vile acids; their vapors burned his skin anew.

  • Heem's home planet, Impasse, was also home to the plant-like Erbs.

  • During the competition, as an adult, Heem is teamed with Jessica of Capella (a human) by means of Transfer; that means that Jessica's aura was transferred into his body.

  • "Food" is indeed a swear word to HydrO:

All three tractors shot past him. In one miscalculation, he had lost his place. Instead of crossing the bridge ahead of the three, he would cross behind. "Food!" he swore.

  • Also, since taste is a HydrO's primary sense, and they lack both sight and hearing, Jessica had great difficulty adapting. Although Heem remained in control of the body, the lack of sensory input that she could understand was extremely disorienting.
  • This looks like the right answer to me but I'll wait on confirmation from my friend who was asking. – Anony Mouse Apr 1 '15 at 16:56
  • Correct answer confirmed. Much appreciated everyone! – Anony Mouse Apr 2 '15 at 10:33

This sounds a bit like Piers Anthony's Of Man and Manta trilogy, comprised of Omnivore, Orn and 0X. I've read them too many years ago to remember the specifics, but they're about several humans who meet with the titular Manta, a race of alien fungi who float in their thick atmosphere.

The second book involves (accordingly to Wikipedia which is refreshing my memory) a visit by the humans and mantas to a parellel dimension / primordial earth.

Also, I remember food and diet being central to the stories. Wikipedia has this:

The human characters' diets play an important role in their interaction with the native species. Aquilon eats a normal human diet—she is an omnivore. Veg is a vegetarian. Cal is forced to drink blood to survive, due to a medical condition.

Could this be it?

  • OK, so Anthony's trilogy involves humans and aliens. Does it match any other points in the question? (1) The aliens are spherical? (2) They use thin jets of liquid for locomotion (3) and defense? (4) The protagonist is an alien? The (5) scorpion-like predators (5) distend their stomachs outside their bodies to digest prey? (6) Armoured plant-like aliens? (7) "Food" is a swearword? (8) Aliens are photosynthetic? – user14111 Apr 1 '15 at 0:16

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