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Six books which focus on aliens, UFOs, and the unknown

Picture Credits (clockwise): Fourth Estate, Simon and Schuster, William Heinemann (UK) Harper & Bros (US)

Picture Credits (clockwise): Fourth Estate, Simon and Schuster, William Heinemann (UK) Harper & Bros (US)

First Contact Day celebrates the fictional event from the Star Trek series, in which the Vulcans first made contact with humans on April 5th, 2063. Despite this being a franchise-based Day, we wondered what else was out there… 

Many Star Trek fans may celebrate today, many may also use this day to take a look at what (fictional) books tackle the theme of aliens, and first contact with the unknown. 

The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells (1898) 

Picture Credit: William Heinemann (UK) Harper & Bros (US)

Picture Credit: William Heinemann (UK) Harper & Bros (US)

The War of the Worlds is, of course, a very well-known book that tested new themes and ideas within writing. 

It tells the story of a Martian (beings from Mars) invasion in the south England. There have been many media retellings of the book, most notably the film of the same name from 2005, starring Tom Cruise. 

The War of the Worlds was first published in 1898, and has never been out of print. 

Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke (1953) 

Picture Credit: Ballantine Books

Picture Credit: Ballantine Books

This 1950s story details the alien invasion of planet Earth by a species known as the Overlords. 

The takeover is peaceful, and the Overlords build what can only be described as a utopia among humankind. 

However, with an invasion bringing about such wonders to the human race, what does that say about humanity? 

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor (2016) 

Picture Credit: Simon & Schuster

Picture Credit: Simon & Schuster

A colossal object has crashed in the lagoon off the coast Lagos, capital of Nigeria, as well as Africa’s largest cities. 

The book follows a group of people who live in Lagos, as the city’s residents deal with the changes that have come with the new and unnerving alien presence. 

Contact – Carl Sagan (1985) 

Picture Credit: Simon & Schuster

Picture Credit: Simon & Schuster

When a signal reaches Earth from 26 light years away, scientist Ellinor ‘Ellie’ Arroway becomes part of a team that worked to decode the message. 

Once the message is deciphered, Ellie realises it is instructions on how to craft a space ship that can travel right to the middle of the Milky Way, through wormholes. 

Ellie and her team follow these instructions, and when they arrive at their destination, they come across an alien race who are working on something that may change the properties of the entire universe. 

Story of Your Life – Ted Chiang (1998) 

Picture Credit: Tor Books

Picture Credit: Tor Books

This 1990s story is narrated by Dr. Louise Banks, and is addressed to her daughter. The plot alternates between the past, which sees Banks meet aliens and work hard to figure out their language, to the future, in which her daughter’s death awaits. 

Banks is one of the many scientists trying to decipher the aliens’ language, and gets rather good at it. However, one meeting with the aliens leaves Banks confused, as they announce they are leaving, with no explanation as to why, or what brought them to Earth in the first place. 

Story of Your Life served as the basis for the 2016 film Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. 

Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy – Jeff Vandermeer (2014) 

Picture Credit:  Fourth Estate

Picture Credit: Fourth Estate

Vandemeer’s The Southern Reach trilogy combines the idea of an alien invasion with genetic mutation that has perhaps gone too far. 

The Southern Reach is a government agency that monitors Area X, a strange and mysterious ecological anomaly of extra-terrestrial origin. The trilogy contains all three novels, titled Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance. 

Vandemeer’s inspiration for this collection is based in Florida, and walks the line between suspense and horror. 

Written by Melissa, who you can follow on Twitter @melissajournal

Researching this piece was very interesting to me, as many of the stories I included were written before 2000. 

I find it so interesting that quite a few stories about aliens, invasions, and the unknown were written before TV was invented, and, in the case of The War of the Worlds, before the internet was around. 

All these books seem to offer something different, which is exactly what days such as First Contact Day are about. 

MORE: Seven books we can’t wait to read in 2022