I read this book when I was a teenager, or in my early twenties, so that puts it no later than 1979. My favorite authors at the time were (of course) Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, and a few others. I've looked up the bibliographies of most of these, to no avail.

The story in general: Earth people spot a small alien craft near the sun. Investigating, they find a lone passenger, a female pilot from an alien race, whose distinguishing characteristic is that her hands are claws of two different sizes: one large, one small. She is suspiciously quiet about how she got there (I think). Examining the video footage, they find that, as the Earth ship approached, she jettisoned four other passengers into the sun.

There is much talk about sexual practices (which makes me think Heinlein). Earth society is going through another "sex is sinful" stage, but the alien female has a biological imperative to breed; if she doesn't have sex, she'll die. Since her shipmates are gone, she keeps getting sicker.

They return her to her own world, and find that there are five different races, all of which build a fully-integrated society. The creatures are of different size, shapes and colors, but all have the same mismatched claws. One breed of alien is like a technician, and, for example, while waiting outside by the car (which are a story in themselves), he or she uses the larger claw as a tool to repair, upgrade, or modify the vehicle. All of the aliens are capable of things like this, so there are no businesses to take care of it. Basically, everyone does everything, if I recall correctly.

I don't remember the resolution of the story, and probably for that reason it's been bothering me for several months. If this sounds familiar to anyone, please let me know the title and author, and if I can download a digital copy somewhere.

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    I don't know the book you're talking about, but it sounds like whoever wrote it got part of his inspiration from The Mote in God's Eye by Niven and Pournelle: asymmetrical aliens with "imperative to breed". – user14111 Aug 21 '17 at 23:32
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    I agree with @user14111.... This sounds very much like The Mote in Gods Eye by Niven and Pournelle. It describes the first meeting of the "Moties" with the Empire of Man almost word for word. – Alith Aug 21 '17 at 23:54
  • I concur with a slightly misremembered Mote. – Organic Marble Aug 22 '17 at 0:57

This is The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Virtually everything you describe matches fully.

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    +1 because I think it's the right answer. I assume you intend to augment your answer with quotations and links. If the OP confirms it, the question is a duplicate of Story about a civilization which repeatedly rises and falls, because individuals can't stop reproducing and People on planet have one arm shaped like a weapon. – user14111 Aug 22 '17 at 1:51
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    Can you please provide some description and perhaps some quotes that show how this matches what the OP is looking for? – Mithical Aug 22 '17 at 1:53
  • Thanks to Buzz for the correct answer,, and to user14111 and Alith, who thought it was something based on the correct answer. And many, many, many thanks to Alith for "It describes the first meeting ... almost word for word." and to Buzz for "Virtually everything you describe matches fully." Both statements were giant strokes to my ego regarding memories of a book I read over forty years ago. – Garison Piatt Aug 22 '17 at 2:19
  • An interesting aside is that my brain gave me "Ringworld" several times while trying to remember the name. I knew that was wrong, so I never looked it up. Had I done so, I would have found the answer months ago. – Garison Piatt Aug 22 '17 at 2:27

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