The best “first contact” sci-fi novels (but with a twist)

Who am I?

My parents always encouraged me to explore the world and express myself. I also grew up in a home where the bookshelves were lined with Stephen King novels, encyclopedias, and VHS tapes containing episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So it came as little surprise that my interests in astronomy, orbital mechanics, and fantastical technology concepts (who doesn't like the idea of a ringworld?) dominated my life. I also love history and the drive for exploring the endless possibilities behind the question "what if." Science fiction is, at its core, about exploring the human condition—this is where you’ll find my writing and the adventures I bring to you.


I wrote...

Eternal Shadow

By Trevor B Williams,

Book cover of Eternal Shadow

What is my book about?

What would you do if the world is going to end in ten years? For Jennifer Epstein, a by-the-books senior researcher at SETI, there is only one answer: prevent the apocalypse from happening. Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus were destroyed by an alien threat. The deck was stacked against humanity before the cards came out of the box.

But Jennifer isn’t alone. She has Samantha Monroe, her excitable but brilliant subordinate. From South Africa, CEO Muzikayise Khulu of Khulu Global supplies his vast resources to the ultimate race for survival. The three find themselves in an unlikely alliance while political brinkmanship, doomsday cults, and untested technologies form ever-growing obstacles. Will humanity unite to face the greatest challenge of their time, or will it destroy itself before the alien ship arrives?

The books I picked & why

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The Last Astronaut

By David Wellington,

Book cover of The Last Astronaut

Why this book?

In a future US where NASA and the space program is all but defunct, former astronaut Sally Jensen is brought out of an involuntary retirement to lead a new, barely-qualified team on a most intriguing—and dangerousmission to an asteroid that's slowing down as it approaches Earth. Gripping and addictive, I found myself not able to put this book down once I started it. This definitely falls into the sci-fi horror camp, a blend whichfortunatelythis story handles really well. If you’re looking for a hard science fiction novel with a hefty helping of horror mixed throughout, you cannot go wrong with this gem!


Saturn Run

By John Sandford, Ctein,

Book cover of Saturn Run

Why this book?

In the mid-21st century, an alien craft appears just beyond the orbit of Saturn and approaches the planet quickly before coming to a halt within its rings... and departs as fast as it arrived. The event shocks the world into a space race not unlike the Soviets and Americans fighting to be the first to put a man on the moon. As a hard science fiction novel, Saturn Run was an incredible read—an absolute joy. I personally loved every little detail provided of the space-station-turned-spacecraft, from the methods by which heat was radiated away from the ship to how it was designed for a multi-month excursion. Overall, I really enjoyed the story and would highly recommend it if you are a stickler for the kind of technical details that hard sci-fi novels should have.


Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre

By Max Brooks,

Book cover of Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre

Why this book?

In a twist of my collection of recommendations, we have a novel in which “first contact” takes the form of a famous American myth come to life. Bigfoot is among us, hidden deep in the mountains of North America—and it took the eruption of Mount Rainier to force a brutal encounter between a small colony of sasquatch and a small collective of people living the high-tech, secluded life in the middle of the forest. 

If you’ve read Max Brooks, you’ll experience his distinctive documentary-style writing which fits perfectly with this fascinating what-if. You won’t be disappointed with this sci-fi-horror mashup.


Spin

By Robert Charles Wilson,

Book cover of Spin

Why this book?

A science fiction novel that has as much focus on fleshed-out character development as the science? Amazing. The plot of this fascinating novel, even more so. Imagine a world where all the stars you see in the night sky suddenly go out. How would you react when you learned the reason for this was a world-spanning barrier which is not only blocking out the starry night but is also vastly increasing the rate at which time passes beyond the barrier—to the point where the sun ages billions of years in a matter of decades.

From exploring the implications of this time-bending device to witnessing the world as it copes with this new reality, this is one story that—after reading it decades ago—still holds a fond place in my heart.


Childhood's End

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of Childhood's End

Why this book?

From the golden age of science fiction is one of my all-time favorite novels, written by one of the fathers of the genre. I’m not even going to provide a summary of the plot—this is an experience that cannot be missed if you are any sort of fan of sci-fi. Despite it being written in 1954, the writing, premise, and story progression all still feel fresh. The book, spanning decades, is one of the human condition and exploring our place in the universe in the face of truly alien intentions. 

This may be the last book on my list, but it's easily one of the easiest recommendations I can make.


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