The Course of Empire is a SF novel about a Terra conquered by an alien empire. This conquest was the most difficult in the entire history of the Joa people; even after twenty years of occupation, the Terrans have not yet been assimilated. Resistance groups still operate in the mountainous regions and riots still occur in the more heavily populated areas. Many of the troops that should have been reassigned after the conquest have been retained to suppress the resistance.
After the conquest, the Narvo kochan was given the oudh to govern Terra and that clan selected Oppuk krinnu ava Narvo to serve as Governor of the planet. The governor and his staff have a low opinion of the humans and this disdain extended down to the lowest levels of the Jao military. Indeed, most Jao consider the humans to only be clever animals, whose behavior is insane and whose mentality is incapable of understanding Jao ways.
In this novel, Aile krinna ava Pluthrak arrives on Terra to assume his duties as Subcommandant for Ground Forces, accompanied only by his fraghta, Yaut krinnu Jithra vau Pluthrak. His presence causes a great deal of consternation, since the Pluthrak kochan may be the most prestigious clan of the Jao, with the possible exception of their Narvo rivals.
Aile becomes even more notable when he starts adding Terrans as well as Jao to his personal service. The first to be added is PFC Gabe Tully, a jinau trooper in the ground forces. Later Aile adds Willard Beck, a human technician, and then Nath krinnu Tashnat vau Nimmat, a Jao supervisor at the Pascagoula refit facility. When Yaut is sent to Jao country to gather information, he adds Tamt krinnu Kannu vau Hij, a Jao guard, to Aile's personal service when she acts rudely to him; she obviously needs the training and she seems to have potential. Later Aile adds combat veterans from both the Terran and Jao forces to his personal service.
The Governor holds a reception for Aile in the gubernatorial palace in Oklahoma City. There Oppuk taunts Aile, trying to goad him into a misstep, but Aile successfully deflects each challenge. Afterward, Caitlan Stockwell comments upon the interplay to Aile and he talks to her for a while before abruptly shedding his clothes and diving into the swimming pool. Later Aile learns Caitlan's name and identity as the only remaining child of the human appointed as President of North America. Caitlan then introduces Ed Kralik, a Major General commanding the Pacific Division of the jinau forces, to Aile (which is a blatant flaunting of Jao manners, but Aile is getting used to the human version of social customs).
This reception and the information subsequently provided by Jao combat veterans leads Aile to conclude that the Governor has become demented in his hatred of the humans. Aile begins to maneuver against the Governor in a type of traditional formal conflict called "advance-by-oscillation". This approach is a form of psychological operation similar to Dickson's Tactics of Mistake, which was derived partially from a fencing tactic of rapid engages and disengages that gradually draw the other blade out of line until the opponent is essentially unguarded. Aile starts to refute the official opinion regarding the humans in various ways, driving the Governor to wilder and wilder reactions, and then countering this erratic behavior by exposing his misjudgment. This tactic should eventually alienate the Governor from his allies, including his own kochan.
This story was inspired by a story from Christopher Anvil, possibly in the series collected as Pandora's Planet and Pandora's Legions. However, Anvil wrote many other stories about the Earth being invaded by hapless aliens; the earliest to my knowledge is The Gentle Earth (1957), which contains many of the elements of the Pandora series.
However, the Jao have an entirely different concept of social obligations and relationships than the aliens in the Pandora series. The Jao have a social organization somewhat like the Hrinn, but without the separation of male and female. Their concept of usefulness as the primary social ethic is close in some ways to the Japanese concept of bushido.
This story basically takes off where Anvil's stories usually end, with the invaders realizing that they have caught hold of the tar baby or, to phrase it another way, they have a tiger by the tail. These invaders are basically good-hearted (but ruthless) defenders of all galactic life from the ravaging and incomprehensible Ekhat. However, the Jao have never encountered another sapient species with equal or better technology and have made a number of errors in their first contact and their subsequent treatment of the natives. Now they need to remedy their initial mistakes and convince the unruly natives to "associate" with their conquerors as do dependent sapients on other conquered planets.
This tale is mostly written from the point-of-view of the alien Jao, even when the principal character is Caitlan, for she is more than half Jao herself. Aile begins his task by listening to the natives and to Jao who have extensive experience with the natives. Both he and Yaut spend at least one rest period a day absorbing the language imprinting program, but find more puzzles than answers therein. Thus, he spends a good part of every day confusedly trying to understand the human mindset. Then he learns that the mindset of the human female is not quite the same as that of the male.
Highly recommended for Flint, Wentworth, and Anvil fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of aliens being hoisted by their own petard and of belated attempts to establish positive relations.