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 colonising Africa from the roots up!

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.

Further 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)

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