Circa late 60s, 70s, or early 80s, written in English.

A group of Xenoarchaeologists are exploring ruins on a distant planet. The inhabitants were beetle like. One researcher (mentally unstable?) builds a robot beetle so he can better understand the culture. His conclusion was that they became 'bankrupt' because of inbreeding.

  • 1
    Please visit scifi.stackexchange.com/tags/story-identification/info and see if the questions there prompt further details that you can edit into your question. I made a few small modifications to your question to try to improve clarity. Let me know if I made a wrong assumption about what you were saying.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 12, 2018 at 16:05
  • Welcome to SFF! Can you take a look at this guide to see if there is anything else you can edit in?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jul 12, 2018 at 16:06

1 Answer 1


Total Eclipse, by John Brunner.

Total Eclipse - book cover

In 2020, an international space team, exploring Sigma Draconis, 19 light years from earth, discovers the remains of a highly advanced society that has left behind its most spectacular artifact; the largest telescope imaginable, carved & polished from a natural moon crater. Successive space crews determine that the native culture evolved & disappeared mysteriously after a mere 3000 years of existence. It's now 2028. Another mission reaches the planet with just one goal--to discover why the civilization disappeared--& with just one hope--that this knowledge will prevent the same thing from happening on earth.

I no longer have a copy, but I distinctly remember that line about going bankrupt.

If I recall correctly, the government didn't trust scientists and sent along a South American (?) army officer with a Stone Age mentality who continuously got in the way. After a chapter or two, however, he came round to seeing their point of view.

  • I remember the SFBC offering this when it first came out but I didn't get it because I didn't know Brunner. Now I want to read it! This is why I like story ID questions. Jul 13, 2018 at 0:30
  • 1
    @OrganicMarble, one warning: a lot of Brunner's books are big fat downers. The quality is also surprisingly variable; some are very good, some not so much. Jul 13, 2018 at 3:54
  • Thank you very much. I have, over the years, read many John Brunner books but forgot about this one. Set in 2020 - how far away that once seemed!!! Will now go searching the bookshelves. Again, thank you. Bryan
    – BryTack
    Jul 13, 2018 at 18:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.