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First Contact or, Alien Invasion?

First Contact can come in many guises. And, if such a thing every happens, what would the reality of Aliens arriving be like for us here, on planet Earth? Would First Contact be benign or an all out alien invasion?

Well, there’s been enough written by various SF authors over the decades about who, what, how and even why aliens might come to Earth. From invading forces sent to conquer us, through to subtle ‘Overlords’ quietly subverting us with ‘gifts’ that, in the end, alter our DNA, changing us from within only to be absorbed into the ‘Overmind’. Right through to alien flora landing on Earth via a meteorite shower, and colonizing Africa from the roots up, as it does in Chaga!

The creepiest novel I’ve read about first contact or, should that be, alien invasion? Was The Puppet Masters, by Robert A. Heinlein, in which an alien spacecraft lands in nowhere Iowa. And slowly, the alien ‘slug-like’ creatures start attaching themselves to human hosts, taking over their minds and bodies. Invasion of the Body Snatchers anyone? We’ve all probably seen the movie but the book is just as creepy and, like The Puppet Masters, is all about strange seeds, grown from a plantlike pod, replacing sleeping victims with identical duplicates.

In Clifford D. Simak’s novel, The Visitors, the aliens appear begin, as they do in Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, in which first contact with aliens appears to bring about a veritable utopia. But, again, in the end, after decades and decades, things are never exactly as they seem. In the case of the aliens in The Visitors, we’re dealing with aliens so alien, there is no ability to effectively communicate with them.  But hey, they give us plant-like flying cars!

While in Clarke’s novel, we have alien ‘Overlords’ giving gifts to humans in the form of tech and health benefits that we greedily take, that is, till the true nature of the aliens is revealed, and humanity’s fate is sealed. They’ve slowly been subtly changing us, through our children, ready to ‘absorb’ humanity into the hive-mind, the alien ‘Overmind’.

Chaga, a novel written by Brit author, Ian McDonald, has a wholly otherworldly version of first contact with alien lifeforms, when a comet slams into the depths of Africa and starts to grow and mutate. Jeff VanderMeer’s novel, Annihilation, is similar in that it focuses on themes of ‘weird nature’ or, nature gone crazy—areas of Earth over run by a biological aggressor of unknown origins.

But, of all these novels, the only real one about aliens reaching out to us in what I suppose is true first contact, is Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact. Which features Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, who’s head of Project Argus, a radio telescope array in New Mexico searching for extraterrestrial life (SETI). Sadly, the subsequent film only bears a passing resemblance to Sagan’s masterpiece work, which has so much more to say than the Jodie Foster helmed movie.

Still one of the best books out there if you want to read about first contact.

FUTHER READING:

  • THE PUPPET MASTERS by Robert A. Heinlein (Doubleday, 1951)
  • CHILDHOOD’S END by Arthur C. Clarke (Ballentine, 1953)
  • INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS by Jack Finney (Dell Books, (1955)
  • THE VISITORS by Clifford D. Simak (Del Rey, 1980)
  • CONTACT by Carl Sagan (Simon & Schuster, 1985)
  • CHAGA by Ian McDonald (Gollancz, 1995)
  • ANNIHILATION by Jeff VanderMeer (Farrer, 2014)

6 Comments

    • Alexandra says

      Aliens are mostly given a bad wrap, Inge. I don’t know why, given we haven’t met any yet. And, at this rate, probably won’t if they watch our TV transmissions. We’re probably seen as the scary aliens! 😉

  1. I’ve been just thinking how our fear on the unknown tends to favour aliens as the bad guys. What if us, humans, turn on them instead? They could bring us gifts and we can get greedy and exploit them…. hmmmm…
    I quite like the concept of parasites – impacts possessing human bodies. I also liked that technology gifts idea – sort of hit home with our current tech obsession.
    Great list, I will definitely be checking some of these books out,

    • I know Vera, I’ve long thought that aliens don’t want to come here because they know what we’re like from our TV transmissions! Ha! Ha! I’m sure they would think we’re the weird ones.

      You should try The Visitors about how alien and alien might be. Simak wrote them as a plant-based kind of alien. Heinlein chose them as slugs! In the Body Snatchers, they were, again, kind of plant/organic based. A lot of authors have gone this route.

      But Carl Sagan, in Contact, had them as a kind of energy.

  2. Puppet Master sounds good! I think i actually saw the body snatcher movie as well…

    Contact i defo saw, and it’s actually one of my fave movies, even though it was maybe 10 years since i last watched it. Never read the book tho.

    Such a cool list! 🙂

    • Oh, I like me a good horror kind of SF like Puppet Masters and Body Snatchers, too, Norrie. I was freaked out the first time I saw the movies, but the books have a lot more in them.

      As does Sagan’s CONTACT, which is (as usual) quite a bit different to the eventual movie. The movie focuses in on Ellie, but there is a lot more going on in the book. Check it out, it’s worth the read.

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