Knock Knock Who’s There

Without noticing, I’ve slowly become a fan of “First Contact” science fiction, especially those where the humans are completely out of their depth in trying to understand the aliens they’ve encountered. Here’s a few of my favorites to date:

Solaris by Stanisław Lem
This classic Polish science fiction novel sees a future Earth obsessed with a distant planet, Solaris, only to give up scientific study after several decades without meaningful progress. Kris Kelvin, one of the last devotees of the Solarist field, arrives on the science station to find the place in disarray and its inhabitants haunted by unexplainable presences. In a way, Solaris is what you get when you make a haunted house less frightening but more unknowable, with implications for all of humanity. In space, no one can hear you consider the limits of human understanding!

Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatskii
Another Soviet sci-fi, Roadside Picnic tells the story of a few brave/foolhardy souls who make their way into The Zone, one of a handful of locations around the word that have become the site of inexplicable phenomena and mysterious objects. Alien involvement is suspected, but no one is quite sure why the contact has taken this strange form. What is certain is that it’s changed the lives of the scientists, scavengers and others who spend their time hopping the Zone’s borders for better or worse. The form of the novel is a little odd, but the ideas it addresses make that oddness worth it.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
A team of four government scientists breaches the outskirts of “Area X”, a massive territory along the coast that’s been affected by some unknown presence. Technology is unreliable, animals aren’t quite right, and allies can’t be trusted, a fact heightened by the strange first-hand account we’re given. As of this writing, an upcoming film adaptation of Annihilation is getting a lot of buzz, both good and bad, but as visually impressive as the trailers look, nothing will compare to the mystery and monsters conjured by your mind.

I know there’s more out there, and I can’t wait to encounter them!

Source: Durham County Library