#SciFiMonth Sci-5 Tuesday: Alien Invasion
To celebrate science fiction during the month of November, I’ve put together a series of posts I’ll be doing every Tuesday to highlight the sci-fi tropes or themes that I find simply irresistible! I’ve also been fortunate to read some great books in the genre over the last few years, and to give them some extra attention, each week I will also be featuring five titles that I recently enjoyed or thought were pretty special.
For our final week, the topic is ALIEN INVASION. Pretty self-explanatory, I think!
Staring outside the window during one his boring senior math classes, protagonist Zack Lightman spies a flying saucer in the sky, and wonders if he’s losing his mind. Because it’s not just any kind of flying saucer. The spaceship looks exactly like an enemy Glaive fighter in Armada, his favorite first-person space combat flight sim MMO. In the game, players from all over take the role of drone pilots, controlling Earth Defense Alliance ships to do battle with alien invaders. Zack’s been playing the game so much, he’s starting to think he’s hallucinating it in his real life as well. Turns out, the good news is that Zack’s not crazy. The enemy fighter he glimpsed was as real as it could be. The bad news is, so is the Earth Defense Alliance and the war against the aliens. Governments around the world have known about this imminent attack for decades, and all the science fiction films and video games since the 70s have been preparing humanity for this very moment. Since their inception, online games like Armada and its companion ground-based first-person shooter Terra Firma have been training and honing the skills of potential recruits for the coming battle, right under everyone’s noses. As one of the highest ranked players in Armada, Zack is enlisted with other skilled gamers into the EDA’s forces. It should have been a dream come true. In fact, the entire book reads like a wish fulfillment fantasy for any gamer who has ever wanted their favorite video game to be real, and to be the big damn hero of their own epic adventure. Cline has adapted that theme for his book, but at the same time he’s also subverted it, so that certain sections almost read like a tongue-in-cheek, satirical look at what audiences today expect to see out of an alien invasion story. (Read the full review…)
Spensa has always grown up in her father’s shadow, though in her world, it is not so rare for the descendants of First Citizens families to feel outshined by the heroic achievements of their elders in the Battle of Alta—the battle in which forty pilots for the Defiant Defense Force protected their planet Detritus from the alien Krell attack. Except in Spensa’s case, her father was known as the pilot who ran. Shot down in disgrace for trying to abandon the fight, the stain of his legacy has followed his daughter since. Because in the DDF, there’s nothing worse than being a coward. But becoming a pilot has always been Spensa’s greatest desire. And ever since her father’s death, her determination to fly among the stars has only grown, dreaming of the day she would finally reclaim her family’s honor and prove her father was no coward. All this time, Spensa has held firmly onto the belief that his actions had been a misunderstanding, though unfortunately, Admiral Judy “Ironsides” Ivans doesn’t think so. As the leader of the DDF, Ironsides has final say on whether or not a cadet is admitted to their prestigious Flight School, and she’s bent on keeping Spensa and her “defective coward genes” out. Still, thanks to the growing Krell threat and an unexpected ally in her corner, Spensa may have found a way to achieve her dreams after all. However, even after making it into Flight School, becoming a full-fledged pilot will be an uphill battle, which is true for all cadets, but especially for Spensa who has the deck stacked against her. As always, Sanderson brings his own brand of storytelling and creative concepts to the table, which is why even if you don’t consider yourself a “YA fiction” person, you shouldn’t let the label discourage you from checking this one out. (Read the full review…)
The concept behind Sleeping Giants is amazing. To call its premise awesome and unique though, is a huge understatement. Say what you will about Sleeping Giants, but you can’t deny the insane amount of thought and imagination that went into it. The mystery presented by its opening chapter is irresistible by itself, beginning with something as innocuous as a young girl riding her new bike near the woods in her home town of Deadwood, South Dakota. One moment, Rose Franklin is having a great time pedaling through the forest, and the next, she’s falling into a large square hole in the ground that wasn’t there before. When the rescuers come to get her out, they peer down to see an incredible sight: little Rose, lying cupped in the palm of a giant hand made of a strange metal shot with glowing turquoise light. Scientists and researchers are baffled by the discovery, which is dated to be thousands of years old—far older than it should be. Despite efforts to unlock its secrets, not much progress is made, and the hand is stored away, its mysteries shelved for the next seventeen years. But now, interest is stirring again. Dr. Rose Franklin, the very same girl who “found” the hand all those years ago, has grown up and become a brilliant physicist. In a strange twist of fate, she is assigned as the lead scientist to direct a top secret team to try and once more study the giant artifact, with much greater resources and technology at her disposal. And overseeing this entire project is a nameless benefactor with seemingly bottomless pockets and friends in high places. (Read the full review…)
Rosewater was weird, but in the best way possible. The book opens with our protagonist, Kaaro, arriving to work at the secret government facility known only as Section 45. The year is 2066, and the world has seen dramatic changes since the arrival of an alien lifeform which has settled itself near right outside of Lagos, Nigeria, where most of this story takes place. There, the alien presence has taken the form of a biodome, giving rise to Rosewater, the name of the community that has sprung up around its edges. Every so often, the dome would also split apart, releasing a mysterious substance rumored to have strong healing powers. As a result, Rosewater has become a destination for some of the world’s most hungry, sick, and desperate. Kaaro himself has been changed by the biodome. He is among a group of individuals “infected” by the alien presence when it first arrived, which has granted them these uncanny telepathic abilities. Called sensitives, they share a special connection with the living dome, allowing them to pick up on thoughts and other signals to glean information and knowledge. When Kaaro first discovered he was a sensitive, he used his newfound powers to steal, but now he has joined many others like him, coerced by Section 45 to work for them as an interrogator to extract information from prisoners. But something odd has been happening lately. Visions of a woman with butterfly wings inside the biodome keep appearing to Kaaro, and soon many of his fellow sensitives are getting sick and dying. Is this a targeted attack on those like him, or something else? And will he be next? (Read the full review…)
Alien stories are always a fun ride, especially when 1) the aliens are unconventional, and 2) their relationship with humankind goes beyond the typical invade them/uplift them dichotomy. Alien stories are even more interesting when they’re mixed up with humor in a spy thriller. I’m also as fond of unconventional heroes as I am of unconventional aliens. A self-doubting, weak-willed, TV-dinner-munching and out-of-shape IT technician working at a dead end job probably isn’t someone who immediately comes to mind when you think of the ultimate secret agent. It definitely wasn’t what ancient alien life-form Tao had in mind either when he had to choose a new host after the untimely death of his last one, but it’s not like he had a choice. That’s how our hapless protagonist Roen Tan woke up one day hearing an alien’s voice in his head. Two factions make up Tao’s species, the Quasings: the peace-loving Prophus and the savage Genjix. The two sides have been engaged in a covert war for centuries, with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. As a high-profile Prophus, Tao finds himself racing against time to whip Roen into shape and to train him in the subtle arts of espionage. His new host must become combat-ready and fast — before the Genjix can gain the upper hand and take over the world. (Read the full review…)
What are some of the tropes and themes you enjoy reading about in sci-fi? Are you also a fan of stories about alien invasions? Let me know your favorites and recommendations!