When Earth is contacted by galactic civilization, our heroic couplet - diplomat Tom Parent, and his linguist wife, Lucy - prove themselves to be just the pair to tour the galaxy representing Earth and learning the whys and wherefores of galactic civilization. There's only one tiny catch to this grand tour - on Tom and Lucy's performance hinges our acceptance by the rest of the galaxy as a civilized world rather than as ward of some more "advanced" species. (You don't want Earth to become a Galactic ward.).
Dickson's latest (after Other) is unabashed space opera, leavened with humor. The narrative rockets into action immediately, moving dizzyingly through alien contact with Earth and into a mission by diplomat Tom Parent and his linguist wife, Lucy, to save the planet by proving to the aliens that humans are civilized. Along their improbable way, the couple watch their Great Dane, Rex, begin to talk; they also travel by spaceship to an alien world and to an alien governing council that Tom inadvertently joins by sitting in the wrong chair. The headlong dash from event to event is paramount; dialogue and characterization are credible, though simple. This novel succeeds as light entertainment, but it doesn't match the complexity or vision of the Dorsai series, or for that matter much else by this Hugo- and Nebula-winning author.