My addiction to the alien invasion sub-genre began as a teenager when I first read H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. I’ll be honest. Overall, I loved the book – but thought the ending was an anti-climax. Nonetheless, the 19th century novel has been duly credited as a major source of inspiration for the best books about aliens that followed.
With that said, are you a sci-fi fan looking for awesome alien invasion books to read? Great! Because I’ve compiled a list of 15 of my personal favorites, including both standalone titles and longer series.
Heads up! I’ll be focusing on slightly lesser-known books about aliens. Thus, I won’t include obvious classics like Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game, Childhood’s End, etc. – which you’ve probably already heard about. In addition, this list will be made up of mostly newer novels – with a few older releases.
My List of Best Books About Aliens (Invasion Stories)
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1. Alien Invasion series
Platt & Truant’s Alien Invasion series is a great read for anyone searching for the best books about aliens.
I love how the plot starts off really quick. Humanity is paralyzed with fear as unknown objects from Jupiter approach Earth. Shaped like giant spheres, they number in the hundreds, and will reach our planet in only six days.
Law and order are cast aside amid escalating panic as citizens prepare for the inevitable. Deceitful government cover-ups only make the situation worse.
Narrative-wise, a lot of Alien Invasion centers on one specific family as they make their way to a secret ‘apocalypse’ bunker, built by the dad.
I think the story is carried nicely by a complex cast of characters and fleshed-out dialogue. Of course, not everyone is likable. For example, I found the dad to be an annoying and selfish sociopath. However, I guess that’s kinda the point – since alien invasions aren’t likely to bring out the best side of people.
Overall, I think Alien Invasion offers some of the best sci-fi books about aliens in recent years. The brisk pace and strong storytelling is especially appealing. It’s also got a pretty good payoff at the end.
- Platt, Sean (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 326 Pages - 02/09/2015 (Publication Date) - Realm & Sands (Publisher)
Spin‘s strengths lie with its original premise – which I think helped the book win a Hugo Award.
The story begins with Tyler who, as a kid, witnessed the Big Blackout. This strange and sudden event marks the day the Sun mysteriously turned into a featureless disc. The moon and stars also seem to have vanished forever.
Even odder, recovered debris from fallen satellites seem to be rusted far beyond their years of existence.
A space probe is sent to investigate, revealing a scary truth: the Earth appears to be trapped in an artificial barrier created by unknown alien artefacts. Moreover, beyond the barrier, time seems to be moving at a vastly faster speed – millions of years quicker!
I adore Spin‘s slow-burn. Author Robert Charles Wilson takes his time to build a truly tense atmosphere that gradually pulls you deeper into his mesmerizing sci-fi world. In addition, the book is also grounded in plausible science, which makes the whole plot more believable.
In short, if you prefer an Independence Day style read filled with non-stop battles, Spin isn’t for you. However, for those keen on strong sci-fi ideas, great dialogue, and well-developed characters, this novel will be right up your alley. I personally think it’s one of the best books about aliens that I’ve enjoyed thus far.
3. The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy
Newly translated from Mandarin to English, I regard The Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy as a masterstroke of alien science fiction.
Beginning with The Three-Body Problem, the series follows Ye Wenjie, who is forced by the Communist government of China to work at Red Coast Base. There, she helps to send out space messages in the hopes of detecting extraterrestrial life.
After many years, the base unexpectedly receives an incoming message from the planet Trisolaris. However, responding to this runs the risk of revealing Earth’s coordinates to an alien race whose true intentions remain unknown.
Disgruntled by humanity’s wayward direction, Wenjie decides to rebel by sending a signal back to Trisolaris. She actually wants an alien invasion to happen, just to hit that big reset button. The Trisolarans respond and began their approach. However, it will take them 450 years to travel to our door. So how will Earth prepare in the meantime?
Overall, I love Cixin Liu’s fantastic sci-fi ideas! I especially enjoyed following Wenjie’s conspiring efforts to undo people’s faith in science – so as to weaken humanity’s defence against the incoming Trisolaran force. The books also feature a diverse cast of characters with varying ideological motives (e.g. tensions between individualism and Communism).
In short, The Remembrance of Earth’s Past is a must-read trilogy that feeds sci-fi fans with some of the absolute best books about aliens. Like Spin, this slow-burn series is surely worth your time.
- Liu, Cixin (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 416 Pages - 01/12/2016 (Publication Date) - Tor Books (Publisher)
Love zombies? Check out our original list of great zombie books to read!
4. The Kraken Wakes
(This book is slightly older than most other novels featured in this list.)
Originally released in 1953, John Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes is a fairly unique novel among the best books about aliens I’ve shared.
For starters, the aliens attack via the oceans – not from the sky. That’s because these Jupiter-born hostiles are used to a high-pressure environment. Thus, they are forced to crash into Earth’s watery depths, first attacking ships and then artificially raising our oceans to disastrous levels.
I think The Kraken Wakes does take some time to build up. The first half of the book is a bit heavy on exposition. However, the plot gains a lot of steam in the second act as the invasion goes from bad to catastrophic (hint: massive death tolls!). In addition, Wyndham wonderfully explores how governments – in their desperation to retain power – would likely react in the wake of an alien epidemic.
Overall, I’d definitely rank The Kraken Wakes among the best alien invasion books I’ve read. Sure, it’s not perfect in its pacing – but it’s still an excellent sci-fi classic!
Lagoon centers on an eclectic band of heroes made up of a biologist, a rogue soldier, and a rapper. Their goal? To negotiate with an alien ambassador while dealing with criss-crossing political agendas and biased media narratives.
What makes Okorafor’s novel special is its unique perspective. While other best books about aliens tend to focus solely on the U.S. or Europe, Lagoon actually takes place in Nigeria – which is juxtaposed with other nations’ cultures. I found this to be a very refreshing change.
I don’t think Lagoon is for everyone. For example, there’s a lot of implicit social commentary thrown in. This might not appeal to those who prefer their sci-fi free from moral messaging.
However, if the above is a non-factor, I believe you’ll find Lagoon to be a highly engaging read. The book adds a nice Nigerian mythical spin to the alien invasion sub-genre, made even better by Okorafor’s authorial flair.
6. The Themis Files series
Pacific Rim and Transformers fans will love this one!
Beginning with Sleeping Giants, this alien invasion series is an absolute thrill-ride from start to finish. The story starts with a little girl named Rose, who is rescued after falling into a deep hole. However, the firemen who save her are also shocked to find her standing in the palm of a humongous metal hand.
Many years later, Rose is now an accomplished physicist. Together with her team, she seeks to uncover the origins of this mysterious alien artefact. Where did it come from – and just how old is it?
Fuelled by a distinct cast of characters, the series really expands in scale as more colossal machines start to appear on Earth. Soon, a full-blown robotic alien invasion erupts, bringing devastation everywhere. Now, Rose and her team must fight to save humanity from total annihilation – before it’s too late.
Above all, I think The Themis Files is a splendidly written series that brims with heart-racing moments and plot twists. These are some of the best books about aliens available – even if the hostiles aren’t of the organic kind.
- Neuvel, Sylvain (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 336 Pages - 01/24/2017 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)
7. The Host
Eeks! I know what many of you are thinking: “It’s Stephenie Meyer! I don’t want sparkling aliens, damnit!”
However, you’ll be surprised to know that The Host is, in fair honesty, pretty darn good! Hey, I’m also not the only one who feels this way, judging from the thousands of positive reviews.
In short, this isn’t Alien Twilight. Instead, think Invasion of the Body Snatchers – but told with a gentler existential tone.
In an interesting twist, much of the book is grounded in the alien’s perspective – a character known only as the Wanderer. She’s part of a species that, rather than stage an outright assault, discreetly invades and occupies the minds and bodies of their hosts.
However, the Wanderer quickly discovers that Melanie Stryder – the Earthling she invaded – refuses to fade away. Instead, the two start to wrestle for control. This in turn slowly teaches the alien what it truly means to be human.
When I first started reading The Host, I really didn’t expect much. However, I soon found myself pleasantly drawn in by Meyer’s rich characters and interwoven storylines. Her explorations of identity and love are also well-handled.
Above all, The Host is a refreshing read that doesn’t follow your usual genre tropes. I never thought I’d say this – but I actually consider it to be among the best books about aliens I’ve read. This is largely thanks to its empathetic tone and sensitivity which brings something new to the plate.
8. The Alien Years
Unlike The Host, the book isn’t about a symbiotic relationship between alien and human. Nope! In The Alien Years, the extraterrestrial invaders are as ruthless as they come. They want nothing more than to see humanity suffer as they thrive off our pain and oppression. In short, they’re brutal AF.
Silverberg’s story is a perfect blend of dystopian and alien invasion fiction. The cast of characters is very diverse. This includes a hardened Muslim assassin, an ageing hippie, a deviant hacker, and many more interesting personalities spread across the half-century story arc. Above all, The Alien Years explores how we’d cope as a species as hope slowly fades.
I don’t think Silverberg aimed to reinvent the wheel here. However, what he offers is a truly addictive and rapid-fire read that holds its own as one of the best alien invasion books ever. I see The Alien Years as a wonderful homage to early sci-fi classics – but updated with a modern and more accessible style of writing. Great stuff!
Enjoy dystopian fiction? Check out our list of books like Fahrenheit 451!
9. The Hidden Ship
I think Mark Wayne McGinnis is a genius at writing nail-biting alien invasion fiction. The Hidden Ship keeps the story simple and always moving.
Brian Polk, a freshly retired Air Force officer, witnesses a hostile alien invasion that erupts out of nowhere. In no time, cities are turned to rubble as tens of millions of people die. Governments panic as they scramble to defend humanity from an enemy they don’t know how to fight.
Above all, I think The Hidden Ship will allure sci-fi fans who love alien invasion books without the fluff. There’s no lengthy dialogue, no deep philosophical musing. Instead, what you get is straight-up Hollywood action that never lets up.
In addition, The Hidden Ship is a standalone novel that can be read in a matter of days. Perfect for anyone who doesn’t have the time to invest in a drawn-out series.
Other best alien books worth checking out!
10. The Fear Saga series
Aliens by the millions are approaching as humans prepare to face a fierce enemy far more advanced than us.
I found The Fear Saga to be very engrossing. At times, the pacing is a little burdened by too many nitty-gritty details. However, on the whole, these are some of the best books about aliens that hard sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.
11. Worldwar series
A brilliant shot of alternate history fiction! What if colonizing aliens had attacked us during World War II? And what if, instead of overpowering us, both humans and invaders fell into a delicate power balance?
In short, Turtledove’s Worldwar novels are easily among the best alien invasion books published, thanks to his wildly imaginative storytelling.
Not all aliens look the same! Case in hand, the powerful invaders of Footfall who happen to resemble… elephants.
I think the book follows a somewhat predictable plot: aliens come, they threaten, they attack. However, there are also many intentionally hilarious and witty moments that make Footfall a standout classic not to be missed.
Also by Larry Niven is the excellent Man-Kzin Wars series, made up of multiple short alien invasion stories. Highly addictive reads with great cover art!
13. The Border
The Border does things a bit differently. Rather than a prime target, McCammon situates humanity as a mere casualty amid a wider war between two alien races. However, a strange boy soon emerges from a small handful of survivors who just may be Earth’s last salvation.
Blindsight is as much about unknown aliens as it is a thoughtful exploration of human consciousness and evolution.
No alien invasion occurs in the typical sense (although, as some readers suggest, it happens in other ways). Regardless, this strictly hard sci-fi novel smartly utilises the alien sub-genre to bring readers down an unexpected existential path that is both grim and revealing.
15. Posleen War series
Author John Ringo is a master at crafting page-turning sci-fi stories. My favorite from him is the Posleen War series.
Here, I think the aliens operate in similar ways to the Zerg in Starcraft. They aren’t the smartest – but are able to overwhelm with their sheer numbers (quantity over quality). Above all, this ridiculously fun and well-written series will scratch your sci-fi itch for the best books about aliens.
Gini Koch – Alien Novels
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Alien SciFi Comic Geek Rom-Com
Thanks for these suggestions! I’ll check them out and potentially add them in. 🙂
Definitely not an invasion, but with an alien as one of the lead characters! Area 51 is the setting in “Aggie & Agent X”.
Hey thanks for suggesting this! I’m gonna check it out and see if I can find a way to squeeze it into the list. Thanks a lot Gary! Appreciate it. 🙂
for me, the best ones i’ve read are Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis series (Dawn, Adult Rites and Imago) and her clay’s Ark. Unique in the diversity of the character’s and the concept of the way earth is taken over.
Thanks so much for the recommendation! We will look into adding these to the list! Is this one of your favorite genres?