The Fresco , by Sheri S. Tepper, is a first contact story with a variety of charming aliens, and irreverent new takes on religion, politics, and social science. Benita Alvarez, a self-educated woman who is feeling redundant now that her children have gone off to college, is chosen by the extraterrestrials to be their intermediary, to take a message cube to someone in authority. Earth needs to be a happier and more peaceful place before humans can join the Confederation along with other intelligent races. Membership in the Confederation will also give Earth some protection against alien predators. The ET solutions for the perpetual unrest in the Middle East,the maltreatment of women in Afghanistan and drug-related crime are especially amusing, and just might work if we had the technology. This is some funny science fiction that works.