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Read this story many years ago in high school (around 2009), and it's been bugging me since. I can't say for sure when the book was published, but it feels recent (so the 90's or 00's). In the story, humans were already space faring. They'd formed an alliance with another species of aliens; a genetically engineered servant caste that had broken free from their creators (this wasn't important to the main story).

The humans find a star system containing two important planets. The first planet was home to a very violent race (let's call them species A) who had only recently obtained space travel. Unlike humans, these aliens didn't sleep daily and instead hibernated periodically.

The second planet was a wasteland, and to their horror humans realized this was because species A of the first planet had used nukes to annihilate the surface and kill whatever intelligent life lived there (species B). Later, it's learned that some of species B survived. It was also discovered that species B were somewhat psychic. They feed on the "intelligence" of species A, and because of this every time their planets approached each other species A would experience massive spikes in violence. Eventually realizing this, A nuked B in retaliation, and to allow themselves to develop a society that wouldn't try and kill itself.

Because of A's violent nature, instead of contacting them humans instead setup a secret military base on an asteroid to observe them quietly. The novel begins when species A launches a surprise attack on the base.

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    I don't know, but now I want to play StarCraft. Plus one for taking me back. – Major Stackings Nov 18 '16 at 20:30
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    Since it's impossible to know how long it's been since you went to high school, adding a date might help, as well as whether you think this was a new book at the time, or if it was already older. That can help pin down the year, which might make the book easier to find. Also, was it part of the curriculum, or did you just happen to read it independently while you were in high school? – starpilotsix Nov 18 '16 at 20:58
  • @starpilotsix You're right, I've added the date I read it. I just read it for fun independently. – FirstLastname Nov 18 '16 at 21:04
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    "Many years ago"? 2009?? Good thing you clarified that. – user14111 Nov 19 '16 at 1:57
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    Just a comment -- as I started reading your third paragraph, I was reminded of First Cycle, by H. Beam Piper and Michael Kurland, but as I kept going it became clear that this was not the same plot. In First Cycle, two alien races had fought a war of mutual annihilation a few centuries before human explorers ever came along, and only a small colony of survivors from one of the two species (the more rational and likeable one) were still alive on another planet in the same solar system. – Lorendiac Nov 12 '18 at 1:37

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