Meta: isfdb. This SF novella appeared September 1979 in Asimov’s. It won the 1980 Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards.
– kind of first contact
– alien with great cultural and philosophical background (unlike those in Starship Troopers, The Forever War, or Ender’s Game)
– background narrated within the story
– mixture of action and musing
The movie touched all those checks and the novella doesn’t stand back at all.
On the bad side, narration feels rushed very often – from enemies to romantic cuddling in just a few sentences, the dying of alien Jeriba “Jerry” Shigan, and Davidge’s investigation on Dracs’ planet to search for Jeriba’s child.
The alien Dracs are not that alien. The two races seem to resemble WWII conflict and the western view on East Asia. The plot is not new and will never grow old: two people from strange cultures have to work together to survive – similarly found in Cherryh’s Foreigner series or LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness but also in mainstream novels.
The novella won Hugo in 1980 and Nebula in 1979 – to some extent because of Isaac Asimov’s marketing strategy (cf. “Asimov’s award-grabbing technique”): He wanted to win awards for his Science Fiction magazine and sent out large amounts of copies to voters praysing the story.
I found both the movie version and the novella equally strong and can’t say which one I’d prefer.