Alien invasions usually involve extraterrestrials arriving at Earth to destroy, enslave, or eat humans. It’s always humans, too—I’ve never read a story where the aliens were bent on destroying all squirrels.
Invasions usually fall into one of these categories:
- Classic invasion
- We’re the aliens doing the invading
- Alien infiltration
- Retaliation (book starts with humans already enslaved)
It won the Hugo and Nebula awards, even though the New York Times felt that the plot resembled a “grade Z, made-for-television, science-fiction rip-off movie.”
It looks like a good deal at first: a peaceful alien invasion by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival ends all war, helps form a world government, and turns the planet into a near-utopia. However, they refuse to answer questions about themselves and govern from orbiting spaceships.
Clarke has said that the idea for Childhood’s End may have come from the numerous blimps floating over London during World War II.
Wells appears to have enjoyed the idea of obliterating his neighborhood. In a letter to a friend, he wrote, “I’m doing the dearest little serial for Pearson’s new magazine, in which I completely wreck and sack Woking — killing my neighbors in painful and eccentric ways — then proceed via Kingston and Richmond to London, which I sack, selecting South Kensington for feats of peculiar atrocity.”
It’s a fun read, but prepare yourself for a meh ending.
In the year 3016, the Second Empire of Man spans hundreds of star systems, thanks to the faster-than-light Alderson Drive. No other intelligent beings have ever been encountered, not until a light sail probe enters a human system carrying a dead alien. The probe is traced to the Mote, an isolated star in a thick dust cloud, and an expedition is dispatched.
Robert A. Heinlein, who gave the authors extensive advice on the novel, described the story as “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.”
One night, a boy watches the stars flare and go out. The sun is now a featureless disk—a heat source, rather than an astronomical object. The moon is gone, but tides remain.
It’s a rare author that can start with such an intriguing premise and carry it through, while exceeding expectations. I recommend this book strongly, as well as the other two in the series, Axis and Vortex.
The human race has had wormhole technology for over 300 years and has colonized several hundred planets.
Hamilton’s exhilarating new opus proves that “intelligent space opera” isn’t an oxymoron.
– Publisher’s Weekly
Earth is introduced to extraterrestrial life by the Galactics, who tell world leaders that an invasion by another alien race, the Posleen, is coming, and they are bringing with them a terrible book cover.
A Hymn Before Battle is the first book in Ringo’s Legacy of the Aldenata series, which already has twelve books, and at least two more planned.
For fans of military fiction.
Arthur C. Clarke called The Day Of The Triffids an “immortal story.” Director Danny Boyle says the opening hospital sequence of The Day of the Triffids inspired Alex Garland to write the screenplay for 28 Days Later.
Judas Unchained is the sequel to Pandora’s Star, and unlike many sequels, it doesn’t waste any time bringing you up to speed. Reviewers say that reading Pandora’s Star first is mandatory.
The density of detail may slow readers down, but the distinctive characters and the plot’s headlong drive will pull them along. In more ways than one, this two-part work is monumental.
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The Terran exploration vessel Streaker has crashed in the uncharted water world of Kithrup, bearing one of the most important discoveries in galactic history. Below, a handful of her human and dolphin crew battles an armed rebellion and the whole hostile planet to safeguard her secret—the fate of the Progenitors, the fabled First Race who seeded wisdom throughout the stars.
Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Startide Rising is the second book in the Uplift series (there’s a total of six), but popular opinion has it that the first book, Sundiver, can safely be skipped.
A dying alien is found in the desert, and in clear English says, “I’m sorry, but there is bad news.” He is later found to have a gift for understatement.
Fans of Bear’s earlier work may be disappointed by the less-visionary The Forge of God, but will still enjoy a compelling read.
The Course of Empire does a masterful job of describing deeply inhuman aliens, and makes them individuals, unlike most alien species (all Klingons are warlike, all Vogons write poetry, etc).
The original manuscript of The Puppet Masters was too risqué for the stuffy 1950s, and scenes of the main character waking up next to a blonde whose name he hadn’t bothered to learn had to be cut, as well as when the aliens discover human sexuality and embark on wild, televised(!) orgies.
Its politics date Footfall—set in the 1990s, it features a still-strong USSR, which is dominant in space. Some reviewers complained of unrealistic characters, but the consensus is that it’s still a fun and exciting read.
According to the author, Orphanage is a conscious homage to Robert A. Heinlein’s classic, Starship Troopers, a youthful favorite of his.
This isn’t too surprising, given that Heinlein and Buettner were both military men.
Blackcollar starts years after a successful alien invasion of Earth. To free humanity, a lone soldier must locate the Blackcollars, an elusive, elite, martial-arts-trained, genetically-enhanced guerrilla fighting force. And he’d better do it, or the book title won’t make much sense.
Reviewers say it’s Zahn’s best work, and given that he’s written over forty books, Blackcollar is either great or the other thirty-nine books suck.
By most accounts, Fire with Fire is an absorbing story of espionage, mystery, and space travel that’s firmly in the Military Science Fiction genre.
Reviewers applaud the well-rounded characters but aren’t too happy about the tough female soldiers who get both frightened and giggly a little too easily.
Warning: A Matter For Men is the first book in a supposed seven-book series, but the fifth hasn’t been written yet, and the fourth was not only published over twenty years ago, it has a cliffhanger ending.
More people have heard of the four Invasion of the Body Snatchers movies than the book, which isn’t surprising, given the book’s reception:
“Almost from the beginning, the characters follow the author’s logic rather than their own… [The characters], intelligent and capable people, exhibit an invincible stupidity whenever normal intelligence would allow them to get ahead with the mystery too fast.”
It’s also been faulted for scientific inaccuracies and an unconvincing ending. But modern reviewers on Amazon and Goodreads continue to give it high ratings.
“In five years the penis will become obsolete.”
That’s the opening line.
The “Steel” in Steel Beach, however, refers to the Moon, where much of humanity lives, after being ousted from Earth by The Invaders.
Varley does a great job of drawing full characters and imagining weird and wonderful ways humans carve out lives for themselves outside of Earth.
The Word for World Is Forest is the Humans As Invader flavor of alien invasion stories. Earthlings land on an Eden-like forest planet and immediately begin chopping down what they can and enslaving everything else.
The narrative can be a little heavy-handed, but it’s more about the forced loss of innocence than simply beating the drum for conservation.
Startling discoveries reveal that the Moon, Venus, even Mars once thrived with life—life that was snuffed out not just once but many times, in cycles of birth and destruction. And the next chilling cycle is set to begin again…
The second book of a series, Manifold: Space is nestled in between Manifold: Time and Manifold: Origin. While it shares characters with the first book, it is not considered a sequel, so feel free to treat it as a stand-alone.
This is hard SF – lots of science, and very little character development.
An unknown alien race captures Earth with the use of a controlled wormhole, which was triggered accidentally by artificial gravity experiments issued from a human outpost in space.
This is a hard sci-fi novel (don’t expect lots of character development) that’s supposed to be the first book of a trilogy, but the third hasn’t been published yet, and it’s been twenty years since the second book, The Shattered Sphere, was published.
People generally either love or hate this book about alien plants that grow incredibly fast and start sucking the planet dry. It focuses more on human failings in the face of disaster than the details of alien life.
Called Chaga in the UK, Evolution’s Shore has been applauded for being one of the few truly intelligent books about alien contact. However, it doesn’t seem to be sure if it’s a science fiction story, a mystery, or a love story, so be prepared to have a little romance in this alien-plants-take-over book.
Praised for its scientific accuracy and ability to hold up more than thirty years after publication, Fade Out is an overlooked gem.
“Tension builds and builds, up to an astonishing climax”
Pandora’s Planet follows lion-like invaders as they try to grasp the bizarre thought processes of the conquered humans. It’s easily the funniest book on this list.
People on Reddit had a few suggestions for this list.
Dawn Octavia Butler (1987)
Blindsight Peter Watts (2006)
Roadside Picnic Boris Strugatsky and Arkady Strugatsky (1971)
The Taking Dean Koontz (2004)
Dreamcatcher Stephen King (2001)
The Forever War Joe Haldeman (1974)
Quarantine Greg Egan (1992)
Worldwar: In the Balance Harry Turtledove (1994)
Wasp Eric Frank Russell (1957)
When Heaven Fell William Barton (1995)
Fiasco Stanisław Lem (1986)
Way of the Pilgrim Gordon R. Dickson (1987)
Camouflage Joe Haldeman (2004)
The Battle of Dorking George Tomkyns Chesney (1871)
The Killing Star Charles Pellegrino and George Zebrowski (1995)
Who Goes There? John W. Campbell (1938)
The Madness Season Celia S. Friedman (1990)
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams (1979)
The Tommyknockers Stephen King (1987)
Of Men and Monsters William Tenn (1968)
The High Crusade Poul Anderson (1960)
A Plague of Demons Keith Laumer (1965)
Anathem Neal Stephenson (2008)
All You Need Is Kill Hiroshi Sakurazaka with illustrations by Yoshitoshi Abe (2009)
Live Free or Die (Troy Rising 1) John Ringo (2010)
2001: A Space Odyssey Arthur C. Clarke (1968)
Rendezvous with Rama Arthur C. Clarke (1973)
The City of Gold and Lead (Tripods 1) John Christopher (1967)