It's been years since I read it. So I'm not sure when the book was published but I read it sometime before 2006. It was a single novel. Not a series.

I remember that the protagonists - humans are travelling in space, encounter this planet with aliens. They slowly work with the aliens to learn the language and teach them human language.

The aliens finally let the humans come down to the planet. Towards the end of the book they realise these aliens can't have kids, they eat their young? They live very very short lives? This ties into the starting of the book since among the first set of aliens who made first contact there was one who died? Almost dying? And they switched her for someone else in order to keep up the pretext.

Ok another thing I remember is that the aliens think very differently from humans. While humans think abstractly and create modular components to build a complex system. The aliens create spaceships where parts play more than one role, if you destroy part of it, other parts take up that role.

They had cool weapons, romance I think? I read the book in India, but it's an English novel.

marked as duplicate by Otis, Edlothiad, Skooba, Jenayah, TheLethalCarrot May 22 at 13:39

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 3
    Parts of the aliens' description resemble the Moties from The Mote in God's Eye (1974), such as multi-role engineering components and a pragmatic treatment of death. – Gaultheria May 22 at 7:10
  • @Gaultheria Thanks so much! Exactly what I was looking for - "Moties (other than the short-lived, sterile Mediators) must become pregnant periodically or die." and the kind of tech. If you write an answer, I can mark it as accepted. – Aditya May 22 at 8:12

The Mote in God's Eye (1974), by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

After an encounter with an alien slower-than-light probe ends violently, a human interstellar empire sends an expedition to the aliens' solar system. The human name for the aliens' home star is "The Mote", so the aliens come to be known as "Moties".

Early contact with civilization at the Mote goes peacefully, although the humans are puzzled by aspects of Motie psychology: Moties seem to have an intuitively brilliant understanding of technology, a lack of communication skills, and a cavalier attitude toward death.

Motie civilization is comprised of a clade of related species, stemming from an ancient intelligent ancestor. The various modern species retain their ancestors' intelligence, talents, and body shapes to various specialized degrees. Engineers, such as the first live Motie humans met, can quickly build complex multi-function machines as needed from spare parts, whereas Masters have an innate drive to manipulate society, and Mediators excel at communication and negotiation.

The humans eventually learn a dangerous fact that the Moties have tried to keep secret: Moties reproduce quickly, and all attempts to pause the reproductive cycle cause lethal physiological changes. Even the Mediators — sterile hybrids of Masters and Engineers — can't escape the cycle and are doomed to early, painful deaths when their reproductive systems try to activate.

This population pressure, along with their long history as a technological society, has depleted their solar system of resources. Now that humans have inadvertently given the Moties clues to a shield technology necessary for faster-than-light travel beyond their solar system, the Moties are set to rapidly expand into human space.

You mentioned the death and replacement of an early alien contact. You may be thinking of two Moties. The Engineer the humans first met became sick and died because she had no other Motie to make her pregnant, and the Motie authorities had to discreetly replace a Mediator who went insane from over-empathizing with a human.

You can borrow the award-winning The Mote in God's Eye and its 1993 sequel The Gripping Hand as e-books from The Internet Archive.

Cover: The Mote in God's Eye Cover: The Gripping Hand

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