Read it many years ago, and don't remember the title or the author. The plot set-up was that earth has been placed under embargo by a federation of alien planets, who say earth people will not be allowed to leave their solar system until they have developed their own faster than light drive. This is resented by most earth people, but it suits some powerful earth interests. A young inventor has developed FTL technology, and is seeking to test it, but these same interests try to stop him, so that the embargo will continue. He meets a funny little alien who hails from a high gravity planet, which gives him superstrength. This alien, while generally very good-natured, has a nasty temper, for which he's been temporarily banished from his world (I think that was the explanation for his being on earth). They embark on an adventure together (they and several other characters I don't remember so well, one of whom was probably a pretty girl who served as a love interest for the inventor), the end being to prove earth has what it takes to join the federation, and make its mark upon the universe.

Yes, it is a bit reminiscent of "Star Trek: First Contact", which it pre-dates by several decades. That's one reason I'd like to read it again. I think it was published in the 1950's, maybe early 60's, but the style is definitely more like the 50's. I don't think the author is a really big name, but can't swear to that. Anybody remember it?

1 Answer 1


I think this might be Arcturus Landing by Gordon R. Dickson.

Goodreads' summery seems to match up decently with your description.

Quarantine...Ever since Earth's first starship crept out on sublight drive a hundred years ago and was met by an emissary of the Galactic Federation, man has lived as a prisoner in the solar system. The Federation decreed that unless man could demonstrate his technological maturity and leave the solar system via a faster-than-light drive, he would not leave it at all. All Earth knows the test that man must pass to win Galactic Citizenship and the freedom of the stars; the FTL drive is every physicist's top priority. But what they cannot know is that they work against both an alien time-limit and human sabotage - and time is running out. Unless John Parent's star-drive project is successful, mankind will remain trapped in the solar system, forever

No mention of your alien there though.

It was originally published in 1956 (as "Alien from Arcturus"), then expanded and re-released in 1978, so it also matches up on your time estimate.

  • Yes, that's quite certainly it. Mar 22, 2013 at 10:24
  • Sorry, didn't mean to make that so brief--thank you for helping me find it. Gordon R. Dickson is a fairly big name, and I've read a fair few of his books, but this was his very first published novel, so he hadn't fully developed his style. I probably happened across it before I started reading the Dorsai books, so I never made the association. Mar 22, 2013 at 10:26
  • I think I must have read this edition--I remember the other novel in it as well, and the cover art is from an era of SF paperbacks that I don't associate with Dickson, so that's probably one reason I didn't think of him. google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/… Mar 22, 2013 at 14:33

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