A long time ago I read a short novel (can't remember the actual length, but not likely that it was more than 100 pages long) about a human astronaut on some sort of mission who landed on an alien planet and lived there since. A pretty common setting, I guess, but I hope the following facts could make things clear:

  • The main landed on a very remote planet with no ability to contact Earth. If my memory is right, he was one of nine 'expeditions' sent out to that particular planet, very far away from earth.
  • All of the inhabitants, as far as I remember, looked human too.
  • The most interesting thing that the whole story focuses around is the language and the communication system used by the natives. The main character was able to figure out the words and the grammar pretty quickly, but the main pecularity was that they could never tell what they wanted to tell directly like we do. They were always talking of things other than they wanted to tell, and their speech seemed irrelevant and hard to understand to the main character, and the real plot of the conversation could be a thousand miles away from its wording. The explanation was that the natives started to shy immensely when touching the conversation plot directly and that did not allow them to do so. However, they themselves did not have big problems understanding each other in such a way.
  • I remember the episode when the main character was sitting in the garden and listening to conversations of flowers in that garden. Even the flowers talked in a similar manner, though their language was simpler.
  • Over time the main character was totally lost. He could no longer tell whether or not he understood anything at all that the natives were trying to tell him. He could not separate his own delusions on the meanings one from another.
  • With some more time he learned to feel a little what they wanted to say. Soon all the natives started to get into a strange mood. They were trying to talk to the main character but he did not understand what was going on. He only somehow deduced that some kind of a great change was coming.
  • After some more time, everything changed, all the nature on the planet. There were no more natives like humans, but more animals as if they turned into them.

Unfortunately that is almost all that I can remember. I do not guarantee that I remember everything right, but I think that I have grasped the main thing - the linguistical pecularity of the place and the great change in the end of the novel.


1 Answer 1


Robert Sheckley's "Shall We Have a Little Talk?" matches some, but not all from the list provided.

  • Don't suppose you could clarify what points it matches on?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Mar 24, 2014 at 18:33
  • The point it matches is the constant change but it's linguistic rather than biological. Not a very good match now I think of it but a good story. Here's an article on it tenser.typepad.com/tenser_said_the_tensor/2006/09/…
    – Wudang
    Mar 26, 2014 at 8:26
  • 2
    Quote ""Then hear this: stop agglutinating, you devious dog! You've got a perfectly ordinary run-of-the-mill analytical-type language, distinguished only by its extreme isolating tendency. And when you got a language like that, man, then you simply don't agglutinate a lot of big messy compounds. Get me?"
    – Wudang
    Mar 27, 2014 at 10:46
  • Isn't the linguistic aspect of the story description more like Darmok than it is like the Sheckley story?
    – user14111
    Jan 14, 2015 at 8:21

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