In the ever-expanding realm of science fiction and non-fiction, books about aliens hold a special allure.
They challenge our understanding of biology, technology, and even the human condition.
For writers and aspiring authors, navigating this genre comes with its own set of unique challenges and opportunities.
From crafting believable extraterrestrial species to managing pacing in a high-stakes thriller, knowing the ins and outs can set your work apart in a crowded field.
Best alien novels
Let’s start by taking a look at 22 of the best fiction novels about aliens.
1. “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card
A young boy is trained to combat an impending alien invasion.
Its portrayal of ethical dilemmas in warfare sets a standard in alien-themed literature.
2. “Dune” by Frank Herbert
Set on the desert planet Arrakis, this book explores politics and ecology
in an alien setting. It’s praised for its deep world-building, offering a multi-faceted view of alien environments.
3. “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke
Aliens called Overlords rule Earth peacefully but with a hidden agenda.
The book is known for its profound ideas on humanity’s potential and limitations.
4. “Contact” by Carl Sagan
A scientist makes contact with extraterrestrial life through a mysterious signal.
Written by an astrophysicist, it credibly explores the scientific and sociopolitical ramifications of alien contact.
5. “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons
A group of pilgrims share stories while traveling to the remote world of Hyperion.
The novel is notable for its complex narrative structure and diverse alien civilizations.
6. “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells
Aliens from Mars invade Earth with superior technology.
As one of the earliest works of science fiction, it set the stage for countless alien invasion stories.
7. “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin
A human envoy struggles to understand an alien society devoid of fixed gender.
It’s groundbreaking for its exploration of gender and societal norms within an alien context.
8. “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin
A signal is sent to an alien civilization leading to global consequences.
The book is celebrated for its hard science and unique perspective from Chinese history and culture.
9. “Neuromancer” by William Gibson
A washed-up computer hacker is hired to pull off the ultimate hack.
Although not directly about aliens, its cyberpunk setting includes advanced alien technology and shaped the genre.
10. “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein
A human raised by Martians returns to Earth and struggles with human society.
This book is important for its early exploration of human-alien cultural contrasts.
11. “Starship Troopers” by Robert A. Heinlein
Focuses on a soldier’s experience in a war against arachnid-like aliens.
Its military science fiction approach has been influential in the portrayal of human-alien conflicts.
12. “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov
Chronicles the attempt to preserve knowledge as the Galactic Empire crumbles.
Although not exclusively about aliens, it sets a high bar for the complexity of civilizations in science fiction.
13. “Altered Carbon” by Richard K. Morgan
In a future where consciousness can be transferred, a detective investigates a murder.
It delves into issues of identity and morality against a backdrop of alien technology.
14. “Pandora’s Star” by Peter F. Hamilton
An investigative reporter looks into a mysterious barrier enclosing an alien star system.
The book is praised for its intricate plot and well-developed alien species.
15. “Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi
Elderly humans are recruited to fight in an interstellar war against various alien races.
It’s recognized for its fresh take on the military science fiction genre and alien warfare.
16. “Revelation Space” by Alastair Reynolds
A scientist and a space pilot uncover an ancient alien civilization’s deadly secret.
The novel stands out for its detailed universe and take on alien archaeology.
17. “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green
A young woman becomes famous for discovering mysterious alien sculptures.
The book explores the social media age’s impact on a global alien event.
18. “Ringworld” by Larry Niven
Explorers investigate a gigantic, ring-shaped artificial world.
It’s acclaimed for its inventive setting and contributions to the concept of megastructures.
19. “A Fire Upon the Deep” by Vernor Vinge
A rescue mission is launched in a universe where different regions of space have varying levels of technology.
It’s distinctive for its concept of a “Zones of Thought” universe with unique alien civilizations.
20. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
An unwitting human embarks on a space adventure after Earth’s destruction.
The book is cherished for its comedic take on cosmic existentialism and alien life.
21. “The Mote in God’s Eye” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
A human expedition makes first contact with an alien civilization.
It’s significant for its attempt to realistically depict the challenges of human-alien interaction.
22. “Sphere” by Michael Crichton
A team discovers an alien spacecraft submerged in the Pacific Ocean.
The book is noteworthy for its psychological and suspenseful approach to the alien encounter trope.
Best nonfiction alien books
Fiction authors aren’t the only ones who have produced classic books about aliens.
Here are 11 of the most important nonfiction books about aliens of all time.
1. “The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)” by Paul Davies
Discusses scientific efforts to find intelligent life in the universe.
It’s important for providing a scholarly approach to the SETI project and extraterrestrial life.
2. “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan
Covers various scientific topics including the possibility of alien life.
Sagan’s work has educated millions on the cosmos and has inspired continued speculation on extraterrestrial life.
3. “The Day After Roswell” by Philip J. Corso
Claims to expose the truth behind the Roswell UFO incident.
The book has been influential in fueling ongoing debates about government cover-ups and alien technology.
4. “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” by Avi Loeb
Discusses the ’Oumuamua object as potential evidence of alien technology.
Written by a Harvard professor, it has sparked scientific debate on the interpretation of astronomical observations.
5. “Out There” by Michael Wall
Reviews the scientific search for alien life.
The book is valued for its accessible explanation of complex topics related to astrobiology.
6. “Project Blue Book” by Edward J. Ruppelt
Chronicles the U.S. Air Force’s investigations into UFOs.
It’s considered a seminal text for understanding early governmental UFO investigations.
7. “Communion” by Whitley Strieber
An autobiographical account claiming encounters with extraterrestrial beings.
Its vivid descriptions have made it a cornerstone in the discussion around alien abductions.
8. “The Demon-Haunted World” by Carl Sagan
Promotes scientific skepticism, including skepticism about aliens.
It’s crucial for its role in promoting a scientific approach to evaluating claims of extraterrestrial encounters.
9. “Aliens: Science Asks, Is There Anyone Out There?” by Jim Al-Khalili
A compilation of essays exploring the science behind searching for extraterrestrial life.
It’s praised for gathering perspectives from multiple disciplines to approach the subject.
10. “The 12th Planet” by Zecharia Sitchin
Suggests that ancient human civilization was influenced by extraterrestrial beings.
While not scientifically accepted, the book has had a considerable impact on popular theories about ancient aliens.
11. “Chariots of the Gods” by Erich von Däniken
Proposes that extraterrestrials visited Earth in ancient times and influenced human history.
Although controversial, it has been influential in popularizing the ancient aliens hypothesis.
Answers to frequently asked questions about alien books and how to write them
1. How can I create a believable alien species in my story?
To create a believable alien species, focus on consistency in biology, culture, and technology.
Consider evolutionary pressures that might shape the species physically and socially. Their technology should reflect their needs and capabilities.
To make them compelling, give them unique traits but ensure they have logical reasons to exist in the framework you’ve built.
2. What are some common tropes in alien-themed literature that I should be aware of?
Common tropes include the wise and ancient alien race, hostile invasions, abductions, and the “humanoid alien” with slightly modified human features.
While these tropes aren’t inherently bad, be mindful of how they can become clichés.
Offering a fresh twist or deeper examination can make your work stand out.
3. How do I handle the science in my science fiction book about aliens?
The level of scientific detail depends on your story’s needs and target audience.
Hard science fiction benefits from accurate scientific theories and terminology, while softer science fiction may prioritize narrative over scientific rigor.
In either case, ensure that the science serves the story and adds depth rather than confusing the reader.
4. How can I incorporate themes of cultural exchange or conflict between humans and aliens?
To explore cultural exchange or conflict, develop a well-defined social structure, ethics, and belief systems for both the human and alien societies in your story.
Conflicts or synergies should arise organically from these differences or similarities.
Readers find stories compelling when cultural interactions are complex and not reduced to mere “good versus evil” dynamics.
5. What’s the key to maintaining tension and pacing in an alien-themed thriller or mystery?
Maintaining tension in an alien-themed thriller involves raising stakes that are both personal and global.
Pacing can be controlled through cliffhangers, revelations, and action scenes.
Mixing intimate human drama with the larger-than-life alien elements can create a layered tension that keeps readers invested in the story.
Are you ready to write your own alien book?
If you’re a writer or an aspiring author interested in delving into the topic of aliens, there’s never been a better time to start.
The market is ripe for fresh perspectives and innovative stories that explore the multifaceted interactions between humans and extraterrestrials.
Don’t just dream about distant worlds and advanced civilizations; take the plunge and start writing your own alien book today.