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I am looking for a science fiction book that I read multiple decades ago. I cannot recall the exact title or author.

The story is that a robotic probe has come to earth and has asked to be destroyed.

It sows a path of destruction in order to give the locals (us) more incentive to attempt to destroy it.

Aliens that sent the probe have sent similar robotic probes to other systems. The idea is that if the locals can destroy the probe then that is not a system/planet they wish to try to conquer.

However, if the probe survives the best onslaughts/efforts of the locals then the aliens will come to conquer and subjugate the system.

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    If the question has been answered to your satisfaction, you can "accept" the answer of your choice by clicking on the check mark next to it
    – user14111
    Apr 20 at 4:03

2 Answers 2

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VOR, a 1958 novel by James Blish, which can be borrowed (for free but registration required) from the Internet Archive; expanded from the novelette "The Weakness of RVOG" by James Blish and Damon Knight, originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1949, which is available at the Internet Archive.

From a review by Robert Silverberg in Infinity Science Fiction, November 1958, available at the Internet Archive:

The novelet dealt with the arrival on Earth of a formidable robot of extraterrestrial origin who communicates in colors—Red Violet Orange Green was his name in the 1949 version, Violet Orange Red in the new one. RVOG, or VOR, poses an unusual problem: he demands to be killed. But he is so fearsome a creation that Earth science is unable to handle him at all, until a shrewd astrophysicist guesses the gimmick solution.

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  • Aha, right. I knew I could count on you. :D
    – DavidW
    Apr 19 at 2:37
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This scenario is also used in "The Guy with the Eyes" by Larry Niven, set in the Callahan's Saloon series. An android with superpowers ("Is that a fission bomb you have there? No problem. Set it off, I'll just dampen the blast.") comes to investigate Earth at the behest of his vile masters to see if Earthfolk might pose a danger to them, but has had a change of heart, believing that Earthlings have their good points. He asks the patrons to kill him because he is about to transmit his findings, which will convince the Masters to destroy Earth. His programming does not allow him to disobey this order, but he manages to give his name as 'Michael Finn'; Callahan gets the hint and spikes his drink so he falls asleep and misses the transmission: the Masters will conclude that we managed to destroy the android and therefore should be left alone.
Finn eventually marries Callahan's daughter.

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    Pretty sure the "Callahan" stories were by Spider Robinson.
    – DavidW
    Apr 19 at 14:25
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    Note there's also a conspicuous lack of a path of destruction, which is why I didn't suggest this.
    – DavidW
    Apr 19 at 14:33
  • You're right, DavidW; they were written by Spider Robinson. I'd been reading some of NIven's work and had a brain fart.
    – R. Darwin
    Apr 25 at 3:28

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