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I read a novel between 8 and 15 years ago (2003 - 2010) which was probably at least ten years old at that point.

It was about a small group of humans who were captured by an advanced race that put them in a simulation. The simulation looked good - but all the machines in it were non-functional. The group trecked through the simulation for some time.

The advanced race was from the past, and they were time traveling into their future several tens of thousands of years at a time - and they were looking for a newly developed civilization or intelligence that could solve a problem that had developed with their genetic code.

The advanced race was also utterly amoral in every possible sense, and were fully intending to wipe out every civilization they found which was not advanced enough to solve their problem.

There was at least a man & a woman in the party - I think there may have been 2 or 3 others.

The woman may have been the daughter of a planetary leader - whose country was wiped out by the callous placement of a beacon in their territory from a galactic federation. This last plot point might be from another story but I think it is from this one.

  • Not entirely dissimilar to Cixin Liu's Three Body Problem. – Lexible May 15 '18 at 21:00
  • Intriguing story - and you are right in that elements of it have similarity with the story I am looking for. Unfortunately it is not the one... – kiltannen May 16 '18 at 2:57

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