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Five Great Books With Aliens In Them

alienI don’t read a ton of science fiction, but occasionally someone I trust will recommend something to me that I have to try. There are certainly exceptions. I will read everything by Ray Bradbury a zillion times before I die without ever thinking, “Hey, some of this is sci fi.” All I think of is that I’m reading a Bradbury novel or story and everything else in the world disappears. Same with Kurt Vonnegut. Even Mark Twain had elements of science fiction now and then, like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. But there were no aliens in that book. Today we’re talking about great books with aliens in them.

Feel free to add to the list.

1. The Martian Chronicles by Rad Bradbury

In the future, as usual, we’ve stupidly destroyed the earth. The stories in this science fiction collection revolve around the colonization of Mars, which isn’t going as smoothly as humans would like. Every story stands on its own, but the book is almost a novel as well. I especially love The Long Years And The Naming Of Names. And while we’re on the subject of Mr. Bradbury and sci fi, I have to recommend Kaleidoscope from his collection The Illustrated Man.

Okay, back on task.

2. Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune is Herbert’s treatise on ecology, religion, technology, ritual, politics, and on and on and on. It’s a big story, even if you stop at the original novel, as many people do. You can read my full Dune Review here. For today I’ll say that it is 1) awesome; 2) full of aliens; 3) full of aliens that are actually pretty interesting.

3. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

The book is markedly different from the fun, campy movie. It still traces the rising of the soldier Rico through the military ranks of the organization that is fighting the bug aliens, but it’s more philosophical to me than anything. There is a story, but it takes a backseat to Heinlein’s meditations on war, technology, politics, and propaganda. This is not a bad thing.

4. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Billy Pilgrim is having a problem. He is moving through time after being kidnapped by an alien species named the Trafalmodorians. They put him in a zoo with an adult film star as his mate. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Except that Billy keeps flitting around through time and reliving events that have already happened and seeing things which are to come. The aliens from Tralfamadore experience every moment of their lives simultaneously, in four dimensions.

If it sounds weird, it is. Pilgrim’s experiences in Dresden during World War II are heartbreaking indictments of the evil that people can commit during wars, and all the alien stuff reinforces the novel’s themes.

So it goes: one of the most recognizable and memorable refrains in literature.

5. The Complete Chronicles of Conan by Robert E. Howard

This one is kind of a cheat. These are the original Conan stories that spawned so many imitators, and these are the best stories. I’m including them in this aliens post because Conan is always fighting with sorcerers. The sorcerers like to summon beings from other dimensions, and I am going to include other planets with that. It sounds as plausible as anything else in these great adventures tales.

When he isn’t fighting huge ape-man and serpents, he is fighting tentacled monstrosities from other worlds that sound a lot like the monsters in HP Lovecraft’s works, and they definitely came from space.

Your turn. Book with aliens?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aoeu October 15, 2010, 2:01 pm

    I didn’t know Starship Troopers was based on a book. Certainly not a good book. I’ll have to check it out.

    I’d suggest Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Great book with aliens, and a really easy read.

  • Casey October 15, 2010, 3:02 pm

    Daniel Pinkwater’s “Borgel”
    “Day of the Triffids” John Wyndham
    “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” Heinlein
    “Ender’s Game” Orson Scott Card

    It’s not five books but I would say those are four of the best books I have ever read.

  • ami October 15, 2010, 3:34 pm

    What? No Hitchhiker’s Guide?

  • Amanda October 16, 2010, 5:10 am

    I’d like to suggest Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s books, and Kate Elliot’s masterpiece, Jaran.

  • Bruce October 17, 2010, 11:52 pm

    It’s already made the list of suggestions, but I couldn’t believe Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card wasn’t in your list. For the briefest of moments, my faith in you and, by association, all strong people and librarians, nearly faltered. Commas are awesome!
    By the way, I’m not a Sci/Fi fan, but Ender’s Game is in my top 5 favorite books of all time. Easily.


    • Josh Hanagarne October 18, 2010, 10:07 am

      Good grief you guys! The title is “Five Great Books” Not “The Only Great Five Books!”:)

  • Sunny June 10, 2011, 11:33 am

    Have any of you heard about an older book called “Communion” about alien visitations? Who is the author?

  • Bruce June 10, 2011, 5:44 pm


    Whitley Strieber. Creepy, creepy book! 😉