8

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 '18 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 '18 at 16:06
7

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. – Organic Marble Jul 13 '18 at 0:30
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    @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. – Harry Johnston Jul 13 '18 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 '18 at 18:19

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