Since the earliest days of science fiction as an established genre, writers in the field have imagined what has come to be called First Contact with a capital F and a capital C. Most of the early speculation in the so-called Golden Era of Science Fiction (the 1930s and 40s) was laughable. But in more recent times most authors have sought to ground their work in the thinking of scientists rather than fantasists. The result has been a flurry of thought-provoking books and films that raise questions about human existence as well as the prospects for encountering intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. And here are twenty of those books. One (Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama) is a classic, but all the others have been written far more recently. They’re arranged in alphabetical order by the authors’s last names, and each is linked to my review.
Semiosis (Semiosis Duology #1) by Sue Burke—Can plants think? These colonists on an alien world learn the answer the hard way.
Interference (Semiosis Duology #2) by Sue Burke—Humans, intelligent plants, brilliant insects, and that’s not all!
Dawn (Xenogenesis Trilogy #1) by Octavia E. Butler—A science fiction novel that illuminates the human condition
Neptune Crossing (Chaos Chronicles #1) by Jeffrey A. Carver—Chaos theory triggers an interplanetary adventure
3zekiel (First Contact) by Peter Cawdron—A thoughtful treatment of First Contact in this new sci-fi novel
But the Stars (First Contact #11) by Peter Cawdron—An alien encounter that questions the nature of reality
To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers—An excellent hard science fiction novella from Becky Chambers
Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke—Arthur C. Clarke’s believable First Contact novel
Skywave (Rorschach Explorer #1) by K. Patrick Donoghue—A private space company threatens a decades-long government coverup
Axiom’s End (Noumena #1) by Lindsay Ellis—First Contact is old news in this sc-fi thriller
The Visitor: First Contact Hard Science Fiction by Tony Harmsworth—What happens after First Contact
Tomorrow’s Kin (Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy #1) by Nancy Kress—Hard science fiction doesn’t get much better than this
Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon—Alien encounters of the strange kind in a captivating sci-fi novel
Transmission (Invasion Chronicles #1) by Morgan Rice—A YA novel about first contact that’s . . . well, childish
Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein—First Contact: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind
First Encounter by Jasper T. Scott—Hostile First Contact in this promising prequel to a new sci-fi series
The Last Astronaut by David Wellington—In a classic First Contact novel, astronauts meet . . . something very strange
Spin (Spin Trilogy #1) by Robert Charles Wilson—A Big History of the future in this popular visionary science fiction novel
I might add an excellent story that is only in part what might be called a First Contact novel: The Forge of God (Forge of God #1) by Greg Bear—Greg Bear’s powerful tale of interstellar conflict
For further reading
For more good reading, check out:
- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
You might also check out Top 10 great popular novels reviewed on this site.
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.