Because all of life is stories.
Hello all! What is everyone reading this weekend? If you need some suggestions, we’ve got a few for you! Every Saturday we’ll have five recommendations for you all tied together by a common theme. The theme this week is books filled with awesome aliens! Strange! Other! From a galaxy or dimension far, far away!
These aren’t all necessarily pulp stories or invasion stories or even stories where the aliens are even remotely the point of the thing. But the following books have some pretty incredible creations in them, and they all tell an excellent story. We hope one will fill your weekend with words!
Binti is the first of her people to ever be offered a place at one of the grandest universities in all the galaxy. Going there, however, means leaving behind her people and everything she has ever known. But it’s a price she is willing to pay for knowledge, and the chance to learn and excel.
Her trip isn’t without danger. What should have been a standard space cruise turns deadly as powerful aliens called the Meduse take over the ship, killing nearly everyone aboard. When confronted with Binti though, they meet a mind that might not only keep up with them, but one that might understand them as well. Now Binti finds herself stuck in the middle of a confrontation between the Meduse and the university she has so long wanted to be a part of. Her intellect and her empathy may be all that is keeping her alive. And it may change her forever.
I love Dr. Okorafor’s writing. It’s powerful and unapologetic. And she creates some of the most stunning worlds. She’s never afraid to write fiction that’s visceral and pounding and profound, even and especially if it can make some people uncomfortable. Binti is a story of survival and power and confidence. Of speaking truth to power paying for mistakes, all while navigating toward a brighter future.
This is the future liberals want. My elevator pitch for this is usually something along the lines of “a second season of Firefly but it’s all wholesome character moments without all the shooting and heists.” That makes it sound boring, and it’s just so much more than that. The Wayfarer and its crew live in a universe that, while flawed, is so much more kind than our own. Long Way follows a year or so in the life of these intrepid sailors, and every chapter feels like its own self-contained story that contributes to a bigger whole.
It’s a book that I can pick up, open to any page at all, and read for however long or short a time I want. It’s relaxing. It’s wholesome. It has flaws and tension and all the things that a good story needs but it isn’t a world-ending race against time. Sure the story is full of aliens, but the humans in the story are just as strange and foreign, which means to us the aliens are just as relatable. Dr. Chef, a sort of caterpillar man with a tragic plast who wants nothing more than to garden and cook, Sissix, the reptilian woman who longs for home and finds herself confused and annoyed at humanity’s general fear of platonic love and affection. Lovey, an AI questioning if having a real body would make her more of a person. You come to care for and love all of these people as the ship crawls towards its final destination; a government job that could radically improve the lives of the crew and their families.
Long Way was such a beautifully refreshing book. In a big, wide universe, when people are so different outwardly that not all of them have the same sets of limbs and organs, it’s what things we share that make us all people, all worthy, and all deeply and perfectly strange. If the daily grind that is life is getting you down or making you hopeless, read the Wayfarer books. Start with this one.
You’ll be glad someone out there understands.
The funniest, most irreverent and heart-breaking book you’ll read this or last year. It’s a wonder of fiction. If you like The Hitchhiker’s Guide and Terry Pratchett and David Bowie and Queen, you’ll love this glittery explosions of what happens when some has-been glam rock megastars become Earth’s one and only hope for survival.
Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes used to be the biggest act on the planet. But times change. They’ve got another shot at greatness though because the aliens are here! Time traveling red pandas, psychic, mind-reading flamingo angler-fish, horrible predator-like flesh monsters that write classic children’s books, and Clippy, everyone’s least favorite of 90’s-Era Microsoft Word make appearances along the way as Decibel and the gang try to prove once and for all the humans can in fact carry a tune.
It’s full of love and regret and laughs and sex and all the glitter several solar systems can handle. Space Opera is an unlikely party in space, and you all very much want to be there.
This is the 5th book in the Old Man’s War series technically, but it’s my favorite point of entry for new readers. It’s got the right amount of tension while still being a little bit lighter and a ridiculous amount of fun. Lt. Harry Wilson is a sarcastic yet earnest protagonist and the laundry list of indignities he is subjected to just make you love him more.
The Old Man’s War series has always had the feel of a heist novel. Hyper-competent people fighting against overwhelming odds. When you’re lacking that, Harry’s pretty competent team fighting against impossible ones. Scalzi creates a wide swath of interesting species and political morays that go along with negotiating interstellar peace with them. Start here, read, The End of All Things next, then go back to the beginning to see how it all started.
The Druin aren’t technically aliens, but ancient interdimensional beings come close enough right?
Clay Cooper was once a member of the greatest mercenary band the world has ever seen. But that was a long, long time ago. Now older and longing for nothing more than his family and his own inn, Clay is roped into one last adventure by an old friend, an impossible quest that will probably lead to his own painful and horrific death.
Kings of the Wyld is a strange and unlikely blend of The Lord of the Rings and The Blues Brothers. It’s also one of the most hilarious fantasy novels you’ll ever read. We did a full write-up a while back explaining in more detail. Between the rock’n’roll references, the cascade of horrible monsters, and the dastardly cross-dimensional rabbit people that would like nothing more to place Clay and his friend’s heads on pikes outside the castle walls, Kings of the Wyld has all the ingredients of a classic fantasy novel, but also a classic 80’s music extravaganza.
So those are our recommendations to fill your weekend reading needs, featuring some of the coolest aliens we’ve ever read about. Not to mention they’re all top notch stories from some of the greatest author living today. What are you reading this weekend? Even if it isn’t filled with other-worldly beings, we would love to hear from you in the comments below.