I 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?