I specifically remember that those buoyant explosive gas filled balloons were an annoyance for flying ships. This is mentioned several times in the book. At the end they seemed to play a very important role in the plot. I also remember ground based predators named Dashers, other named Swifters and the like.
I read it in the '90s, it but could be older.

marked as duplicate by Otis, Politank-Z, Edlothiad, Aegon, Ward Sep 15 '17 at 16:10

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Is it The Jesus Incident? By Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom

This piece from a Google Good reads search confirms that there were predators called dashers.

Until she saw him sprint across the east plain, a Hooded Dasher close behind, Legata did not know Thomas was at the Redoubt . . . Thomas swerved abruptly to the left, made a desperate leap off a dangerously high rock onto the sand at the high tide mark. The Dasher leaped after him, misjudged and landed in a patch of dead kelp washed up by the surf. It immediately began gulping rags of kelp dropping from a high rock, running as it landed.

  • The title doesn't sound right to my ears. I'll take a look and let you know. Thanks! – Yuta73 Jul 1 '15 at 14:56
  • Sorry, but It seems this is not the book I'm looking for. I didn't see any mention of buoyant ballons in it. Thanks anyway. – Yuta73 Jul 1 '15 at 17:00
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    "The Jesus Incident" is the novel you are looking for. The Balloon creatures are called hylighters. From theverge.com/2012/9/9/3303946/…, "The majority of events take place on Pandora, a planet of extremes populated by unique creatures like the peaceful, orange, jellyfish-like hylighters that float in the sky, and a sentient kelp that communicates by flashing multicolored lights." – Will Feldman Jul 2 '15 at 2:19
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    The balloon animals as also know in the book as "floaters", they have poisonous/acidic tendrils that can trail along the ground. – Binary Worrier Jul 2 '15 at 8:10
  • Yep, they were indeed orange and had tendrils. I'm seeing too many coincidences for it to be the wrong book. Thanks everyone for your help. – Yuta73 Jul 2 '15 at 21:32

Not much to go on, but how about "The Ragged Astronauts" or one of its sequels by Bob Shaw? The book features flying ships and there are balloon animals ("ptertha") that contain a toxin that is a major issue when the balloons zoom up to you and pop. The ptertha do indeed become a major plot point.

The books are really good btw, I highly recommend them.

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    Now that you mention it, I think the ballons chased the passing by ships. – Yuta73 Jul 1 '15 at 22:22

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