John Brunner’s 1965 The Long Result is a stand-alone science fiction novel.
Roald Vincent is a functionary in the Bureau for Cultural Relations, a functionary who is bright but deficient in driving bureaucratic ambition. He has set his heart on Patricia Ryder and plans to marry her1 as soon as he deals with a daunting career challenge.
The matter of the aliens from Tau Ceti.
Humans are the only known race with star drives. All the hitherto known alien civilizations have been contacted by human ships. Until Tau Ceti, all of those ships came from Earth. Tau Ceti’s natives were contacted by Starhome, the Terran colony on Epsilon Eridani’s habitable world.
The Starhome starship Algenib arrives at Earth bearing an embassy from Tau Ceti. The aliens have been delivered to Earth without any advance warning. Technologically-focused Starhome may have felt that it didn’t have the diplomatic skills to manage first contact. Or, more likely, the ambitious colony world hopes to embarrass Earth.
If managing the aliens’ first visit to Earth were not enough of a challenge, the Stars Are For Man League chooses this moment to reinvent bigotry, a sin Earth had set aside ages ago. The Star Are For Men League believes that since humans invented the only stardrive, the galaxy should be humanity’s. Aliens are but monsters to be contained, not treated like people.
The League’s beliefs would be bad enough. The League also believes in action. A rocket containing a Regulan is sabotaged (to little effect, as Regulans are almost invulnerable) and an alien transport vehicle is deliberately wrecked. When these fail to have the desired effect in bollixing relations with aliens, the League escalates their efforts.
At this juncture Roald is approached by Starhome colonist Kay Lee Wong. Starhome wants to establish its own cultural bureau and they would like Roald to head it.
Those in the know expect Starhome to one day eclipse Earth. The fact that they are ready to broaden their horizons enough to need a cultural affairs bureau suggests that day is closer than was believed. The fact that they were able to keep their progress from Earth suggests deliberate subterfuge. What else might Starhome be concealing? Might they also be involved in trying to destabilize Earth by funding terrorists2?
Roald could not say who is funding the League. To his alarm, he realizes that he knows who is funneling information to them. The source is a top Bureau functionary … Roald Vincent himself.
Brunner appears to have anticipated a highly automated world. Modern readers might not find his household conveniences unfamiliar. However, for some reason, the technological powers-that-be have been happy to leave the Gini Coefficient low (at least on Earth). Odd.
Readers looking for early examples of diverse casting might consider this book. Earth government seems to draw from across the whole planet. On the minus side, the women in this novel with significant stage presence all seem to be keen on manipulating Roald for their own ends. At least they are smart, if unethical.
I have a minor mystery where this book is concerned. My MMPB is the 1968 Penguin. I am sure this is not my first copy. When I look at ISFDB, none of the covers for the Ballantine edition look familiar and there was never an Ace edition or even a DAW. But I do know I read this way back when.
At this point, I don’t think Brunner cared over much about astronomy (as it was then known). His aliens come from Gamma Ophiuchi, Sigma Sagittarii, and Regulus, giant stars exceedingly unlikely to have native life on their worlds. They are also far more distant than Tau Ceti, which was somehow contacted last.
While Earth of this era is beyond prejudice (directed at other humans, anyway) and war, and is mature enough not to mind overmuch about the prospect of being outdone by Starhome, communication seems to involve a lot of irritated lecturing. On the plus side, people not blinkered by prejudice appear to be able to absorb new information quickly.
I jumped over a number of early Brunners because frankly, the early material is uneven at best. This book is not Hugo material but at least the plot mainly focuses on negotiated accommodations rather than pew pew pew action. The plot is more energetic than logical, but it is all over very fast.
1: Judging by Roald’s comments about marriage, divorce does not seem to exist. This may reflect the fact the novel predates the Divorce Reform Act 1969.
2: Starhome doesn’t come off all that well, to be honest. They are a prickly lot, on top of which their can-do government was founded by “the spiritual descendants of the twentieth-century totalitarians.”