"The Experiment," by Cristian A. Solari is a work of science fiction that delves into these questions, albeit using a planet other than Earth - but it isn't a stretch to see the similarities. The people of the planet Origin are being observed as an experiment by all of the creatures of The Confederation, a kind of utopian country club of various alien species who all live in harmony according to their Constitution. Only those species of sufficient intellect are allowed membership into this exclusive group, because to do otherwise may upset the self-created utopian network. The problem: the preintelloids of Origin have managed to discover hyperspace travel well before they have evolved enough to gain membership through intellect.
The confederation is left with two choices - terminate the experiment (preintelloids included), or risk the possibility that they successfully travel via hyperspace and basically "infect" the whole universe (they happen to reproduce at a frequent rate!). But there are always more options that present themselves and a little thing called "randomness" (alien-speak for Murphy's Law) has a say in things.
The complexity of the novel may well have been difficult for any novelist to pull off, but Solari does an admirable job (especially considering this is his first novel). I wasn't quite sure that I was going to enjoy it, but about halfway through I was hooked.
Strengths of the book: Originality. This book was not a repackaged reboot of a well known story. The author brings a fresh view to the question "are we alone?" I really enjoyed the fact that much of it was told through the point of view of the superior aliens. There were many points in the book that I thought I had the ending figured out, only to be proven wrong. I was also afraid that I was going to be disappointed by some sort of political tree hugger message - but thankfully the author didn't go there. Not that there was a lack of message in the book, it just wasn't shoved in your face - and the reader can take from it many different meanings, depending on what they were looking for.
Weaknesses: I feel this book could have used another round of editing and proofing. The book picked up quite a bit in the second half, but I think that trip to get there could be shortened without losing anything. There were a few misplaced words and names that were spelled differently from previous uses, but it wasn't enough to detract from the story. There were times when some of the dialogue was difficult to tell who was "speaking" (the quotes are because the dialogue was actually telepathic communication, so I can't say what the correct way to present it would be - but at times I had a hard time who was thinking what)
All in all, I enjoyed this book. Hopefully Solari has more hypothesis' to "Experiment" with.