I read a science fiction novel about a rare kind of heavy water which made anyone who drank the water lose their self and their mind and will. The rare heavy water came from a spring in the Andes mountains.

An earthquake had opened the underground river near a mountain village. The villagers began drinking from the spring and soon became mindless and lost their will. The only villager who didn't drink from the spring was an old holy man who couldn't walk far enough to the spring. He became the leader of the village by default.

He was the only one in the village who could tell everyone what to do to keep the village going. When he got too sick to go to the village meeting, the villagers waited for him until they died of thirst.

A party of explorers found the village and the old man barely alive who lived just long enough to tell the explorers the story. The party took samples of the water and began experimenting with the rare water. A little girl stumbles into the research grounds and the researchers use her as a test subject.

The family and some concerned parties tracked the girl down to a hidden research property and found and saved the girl, but it was too late since the researchers had already given her the heavy water which rendered her lifeless. She would only respond to direct commands to do something.

This rare water seemed to induce a state of permanent and irreversible depressive catatonia.

I read this novel in the 1970s when I was a senior in high school. The book had the little girl's head and face on the cover and the word "analog" or "analogue" in the title.


1 Answer 1


I wonder if you could be remembering A Report From Group 17 by Robert C. O'Brien. I also read this in the late 1970s or early 80's. I'm not sure about the "analogue" you remember in the title, but otherwise the plot matches exactly.

If you read the description in wikipedia, the main plot of the book is about the scientists experimenting with the special water that removes free will and initiative. They start off using monkeys, but a 12 year old girl stumbles into their experiments, so they kidnap her and give her the water. The main protagonist is another scientist who helps find the girl.

I remember a scene where they use a cattle-prod on the girl, while she's in a cage, and when she's told it won't hurt, she doesn't react while she's awake. However, when she's asleep it's obvious she still feels pain, which leads the (protagonist, I think) scientist to believe the water only affects the conscious mind.

The first part of the plot you remember is actually an article that the protagonist finds in his research -- about the isolated village in the mountains where all the villagers seem to have died of starvation/thirst, even though there is food/water available. A single survivor is found -- an old man, the last member of a family with their own water supply. He tells the story of how his family gradually noticed changes in the other villagers, and tried to help them by telling them to eat, drink water, etc. It's when the old man gets too sick to go tell them what to do, that the other villagers die.

In the article about the original water, the implication is that the affect of the water is gradual, and it takes decades to get to the point of no free will. The scientists who are experimenting with it are trying to increase the effect, and basically make it a weapon.

They do rescue the 12-year old girl, but the effect of the special water is irreversible. However, the book ends with the protagonist looking forward to a new challenge, implying that he might be able to find a cure.

  • From Phillip Jones thank you for answering my question after years of wondering. Sorry my reply is so late. Heavy duty fell upon me. Again, thank you very much. Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 0:56
  • @PhillipJones Hey, glad this site helped you find the story you were looking for! If you merge your accounts (the one you used to write this comment is different from the one you used to ask the question), you'll be able to accept this answer as an extra thank-you, which will also mark the question as solved.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 31, 2017 at 1:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.