The Day of the Burning by Barry Malzberg
Ace Books, 1974
Price I paid: none
It was a sultry summer day in 1981, and the 3 billion or so inhabitants of the world went about their daily routine unaware that, possibly, the fate of the human race lay in the shaking hands of one George Mercer, an insignificant and slightly neurotic employee of the New York City Department of Welfare.
For George had been informed, by an accredited emissary of the Galactic Overlords, that he had 12 hours in which to prove the people of Earth worthy of admission into the Galactic Federation. George, and George alone, would represent all of mankind. If he failed the entire planet would be destroyed.
Was all this a nightmare of delusion dredged up by his tortured subconscious? Or a very real nightmare that would end in the Day of the Burning….