The best first contact science fiction novels

Who am I?

I like this topic/theme because I’ve always enjoyed alien contact (in the future) in all forms of entertainment, also it is what I first took to when I began writing and I find this subject comes to me most readily. I guess it’s always on my mind since I’ve written every day for the past 13 years, mostly sci-fi novels/novellas of a similar theme, all these books influence my writing, even the comedy.

I wrote...

The School of Hard Knocks

By Oliver Strong,

Book cover of The School of Hard Knocks

What is my book about?

Rick and his crew live where the law is what you make it and the taxman doth fear to tread. While a war rages he profiteers on the misery of others, a parasite of dignity.

Despite his plan to sit it out from the sidelines he's drawn in. As time passes the choice between his conscience and cold hard cash is not so simple.

The books I picked & why

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Enemy Mine

By Barry B. Longyear,

Book cover of Enemy Mine

Why this book?

“Why should I read this book you ask?”, well it won the Nebula award for best novella in 1979, and the Hugo award in 1980, it was made into a movie in the mid-eighties, at the time I didn’t read much, so I’d seen a pretty good Hollywood movie about a human space fighter pilot, fighting a race call the Drac. Later I read a book of the same name, not realising until a few chapters in that I’d seen the movie years before!

The interesting part was, that because they only fought via space fighter craft, neither race had seen the other. Two pilots crash land on an inhospitable planet during a space battle, one Human the other Drac.

Initially the pair have nothing but hatred for one another, pre-programmed by their respective governments, yet must rely on one another for survival.

While stranded they learn of one another’s culture and become friends, eventually attaining mutual respect, an excellent read and my favourite first contact sci-fi book.

Childhood's End

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of Childhood's End

Why this book?

OK, so one of the granddaddies of science fiction, this book didn’t get any awards, which is a crime against sci-fi in my opinion.

It’s been decades since I’ve read this book, but I’ll recall what sticks in my mind. As the space race begins the Soviets and Americans launch into space, alien spacecraft appear and rest above the major cities on the planet.

As I recall they render all weaponry ineffective, the aliens, known as overlords, scrutinise humanity, treating them something like a cross between children and a lab experiment, though never intruding on human affairs other than to remove only the most horrific examples of barbarism.

The overlords never show themselves and only communicate with one man directly, the main overlord in the story is something like a governor sent to watch us, who speaks to a human (I forget his name also) they’ve selected, talking through one-way glass.

It’s an interesting take on an alien invasion story, as the aliens are pretty much benign, the only downside is a loss of freedom. Eventually, the Overlord’s true intentions become clear, and they make plain their plans for the human race, a rather unique turn in the plot.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

By Douglas Adams,

Book cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Why this book?

Yes I know, but it is technically an alien first contact, just not the one your granddaddy would have read. So why? Because it’s hilarious and a great read.

Interestingly, this was adapted from a BBC radio show into a book, then a TV show, then a film, just like the book's lead character, they got it all the wrong way around!

Characters are hilarious, from Arthur Dent, the unlikely lead, a man who escaped the Earth’s destruction, in order the Vorgons (I think that was their name) might construct a galactic motorway, finds himself the last human alive in a galaxy full of aliens where Dent lurches from one crisis to the next.

Dent discovers Earth was a supercomputer, built to compute the meaning of life, yet it was destroyed moments before the answer could be retrieved, however… there’s good news… Arthur Dent having been pulled out of harm's way at the last moment holds those answers, trapped in his mind… now comes the bad news… there’s a group of aliens that want that information!

The book is funny, the characters are richly hilarious, the many different species and their crazy motivations and how they live their lives will crack you up, this is alien first contact plus comedy, you have to read it.

Enterprise Stardust

By Karl-Herbert Scheer, Walter Ernsting,

Book cover of Enterprise Stardust

Why this book?

So some of you are sitting there thinking “Perry who?” well imagine him as the West German (it was first published in 1961) alternative to our Flash Gordon.

In book number one, Rhodan and his crew take off and make the first moon landing, their mission is disrupted by a crashed spacecraft. This is where they meet the Arkons, a sort of tall, large-headed alien with silver eyes, or hair, or both… it’s been a long time so don’t hold me to any of the details!

So these aliens from a super-intelligent species (Rhodan later in the series uses a device similar to the one in Battlefield Earth to increase his intelligence and psionic powers above even that of the Arkons) assist Rohdan in ending the cold war on Earth and uniting the planet.

The series runs for 126 books, mostly novellas, it’s typical Flash Gordon when it’s action time, but it does have some hard sci-fi mixed in, naturally, he finds his alien love interest later on, it’s all good in my opinion.

Terms of Enlistment

By Marko Kloos,

Book cover of Terms of Enlistment

Why this book?

I like this because I enjoy Dystopian sci-fi, sure Star Trek is good and all but I like it down and dirty, also I enjoy a military sci-fi read every now and then and this scratches both itches, even better … it’s a series.

So it’s 2018 and Earth is a crap hole, filled to the brim people are squashed into tiny apartments, living off welfare, and plagued by crime. The only sure way out is to enlist with the military. This book follows Andrew Grayson on his journey off the hell hole that is Earth, into basic training.

The aliens, “Lankies” are 80 feet tall and not very hospitable. Turning up on a colony, Grayson, who signed up during peacetime, finds he’s fighting an almost invincible alien opponent as Earth is pushed out of its colonies.

This is a Starship Trooper-esque book/series that I’m sure most will enjoy, framing the military in a better light than usual, as earnest yet grim, I’d recommend this for anyone who enjoyed Starship Troopers or The Forever War.

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