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I'm looking for the name of a "first contact" novel, where humans (in the future, who are fairly advanced) receive a signal from an alien world. There's debate about how to respond, or if they should respond at all.

Eventually, the/a government decides on a response: a relativistic kill weapon that will destroy the planet that sent the message (sort of the opposite of "The killing star"). The book's solution to the Fermi paradox is essentially that everyone out there keeps quiet, and those that broadcast signals get eliminated by the paranoid races that hide.

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    You have a nice start here but could you take a look at pthis guide to see if there is anything else you can edit in? Also don't forget to take the tour if you haven't already. – TheLethalCarrot Jan 2 at 14:47
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Run to the Stars by Michael Scott Rohan

The protagonists realize that the "BC" world government is engaged in a top secret conspiracy. Half the plot is their efforts to discover the truth.

As it turns out, government scientists have received radio messages from an alien species. The government decides that the best course of action is an act of genocide to kill all the aliens. They design a relativistic missile large enough to pulverize the alien planet. All in secret, because many of the citizens of Earth's world government would be quite angry if they knew what was being planned.

The protagonists are shocked. But then they have a fierce internal debate. Some of the protagonists think this genocide might actually be a good idea.

However, other protagonists point out this will mean Earth will have to hide from the stars for the rest of eternity. The relativistic missile will leave a trail pointing straight back to Earth, evidence of Earth's crime of genocide. If Earth sends out starships to explore the universe, and stumble over other species of aliens, it will be trivial for the aliens to discover Earth's crime. The aliens will then try to destroy Earth as punishment for Earth's crime.

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    That's the one... and answered by the atomic rockets guy, awesome... – Erik Boehm Jan 3 at 15:53
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    I was expecting this to go a different way, i.e. "Humans destroy the alien planet and realize it was a decoy that allows a real threat to find them" – JMac Jan 3 at 16:10
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Cixin Liu set of novels have a similar theme to the original question asked, together called the three body problem, the particular fermi paradox solution is named the same as the second novel The Dark Forest.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liu_Cixin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Forest

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    The trilogy is brilliant, but does not contain the plot point of the question. While relativistic kill weapons are used, in Cixin Lius work, Earth is on the receiving end of it and, more importantly, governments are portrayed as largely inconsequential. – Tom Jan 3 at 9:51
  • It certainly does. Spoiler alert. The earth threatens to beam out into open space the location of the alien homeworld (and earth's...) as a MAD device, killing everyone. Because the dark forest will make sure to snuff out both the messenger and the reference contained in the message. (further spoiler, and successfully does so.) The plot otherwise fits all the plot points of the OPs question. – Stian Yttervik Jan 3 at 12:03
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The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (Remembrance of Earth's Past Series).

The dark forest is the name of a theory in response to the Fermi Paradox:

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-Dark-Forest-Theory-of-the-cosmos-which-is-a-response-to-the-Fermi-Paradox

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    This doesn't really seem like a separate answer -- it's the same book that Neil Turpin mentioned in his answer -- but if you like, I believe a moderator can convert it to a comment on that answer for you. Would you like that? – ruakh Jan 3 at 1:49

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