From the introduction:
We are not alone in the universe. One year ago, astronomers at the New Mexico Very Large Array detected an unusual celestial body entering our solar system. Six months ago, humanity made first contact with an alien race. Although they are not related to any life as we know it, their appearance, combined with the human instinct to understand the world via analogy, has earned them the nickname "starfish." Starfish technology is far beyond ours. At the very least, they have solved the problem of faster-than-light travel, and there are some indications that this may be only the tip of the iceberg. This is a source of great concern to the American government, who are keeping knowledge of the starfish hidden from the general population while they desperately attempt to negotiate with the aliens and try to figure out what to do.