Imagine you’re an emergency dispatcher. You’ve just clocked in on what appears to be a night just like any other, when suddenly your flooded with calls. Dozens of people have been reported missing just in the last few hours. A number of other people are calling in to report seeing bright lights hovering in the night sky and strange men that keep in the shadows. Stories like these make up a specific sci-fi horror genre that’s captured the public’s attention for decades: alien invasion.
Given the number of reported UFO sightings in the last century, one quite famously in Roswell, New Mexico, it’s easy to understand why. Fictional monsters like ghosts and vampires are easy to write off in our minds because we know they aren’t real. But it’s likely, if not highly probable, that aliens exist somewhere in the universe. It’s possible that one day we may find ourselves the real-life subjects of stories just like these. So, what do we need to know? These 10 alien invasion stories are an absolute must-read.
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
It’s hard to beat the O.G. alien invasion story. This novella by H.G. Wells gained notoriety as a radio broadcast narrated by Orson Welles in 1938. It was a story that many people at the time believed was actually happening. The book tells of two men who see what appear to be explosions on Mars that occur at the exact same time every night for ten nights. Initially, the explosions are believed to be a volcano on Mars until a giant, artificial cylinder lands near the narrator’s home in the UK. The cylinder opens up, briefly revealing the monstrous aliens inside. After a period of acclimating to earth’s atmosphere and gravity, the aliens fully emerge and begin to attack. The War of the Worlds is the narrator’s story of escaping the invasion and fleeing to safety.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
A group of women, an anthropologist, a surveyor, a biologist, and a psychologist, journey into Area X. It’s an area that’s been cut off from all civilization for decades. So far, there have been eleven expeditions into the territory. The first expedition returned reports of an Edenic landscape. The team on the second expedition failed to return home after they all committed suicide. The third saw them parish in a hail of gunfire as the team turned on each other. The eleventh team returned as shells of their former selves, all dying of cancer within weeks of their return. Annihilation is the story of the twelfth expedition. As the women trek through the dense terrain, they’ll encounter a massive topographic anomaly and plant and animal life forms beyond their understanding.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Aliens have invaded the planet in waves. After the fifth wave, the people of earth are dwindling, left scattered around the planet. Their best option is to isolate themselves from the extraterrestrials that only look human. The rule is that to stay alone is to stay alive. But when Cassie meets Evan Walker, she finds he may be her only hope of saving her brother. She’s forced to choose between her own safety, to live in a way she knows will keep her safe, and risking her life by trusting a stranger. Fans of dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels will love this series by Rick Yancey.
Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
Fans of The Thing will enjoy this lesser-known novella the films are based on. It’s the story of a group of scientists in Antarctica that discover, thaw, and subsequently resurrect the frozen body of an alien that crash landed on earth. The creature has the uncanny ability to shape-shift into human and animals alike, sending the research team into a downward spiral of paranoia as they try to distinguish friend from foe and attempt to destroy the thing before it can destroy the rest of humanity. For science fiction fans, this alien novella is an absolute must-read.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
I know, I know. It’s hard for any story to beat the cult-classic phenomenon that was The Twilight Saga. But Stephenie Meyer’s The Host is also a really amazing read. In this novel, Earth has been invaded by aliens that take over their human hosts mind while leaving their body in tact. Melanie’s mind has been taken over by the wanderer, but she refuses to relinquish control. She floods the wanderer’s mind with thoughts of Jared, a man she’s long been in love with, and the wanderer begins to yearn for him. The two become unlikely allies in searching for a man they both love.
The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
Bobbi Anderson accidentally stumbles across something buried in the woods behind his house, something buried for over millennia. With a friend, they uncover an alien spaceship and the entity that piloted it. Soon it turns his idyllic hometown of Haven, Maine into a deathtrap. Everyone, man, woman and child, is suddenly possessed with powers far beyond human ability. They become welded to the homicidal entity, in thrall with the tommyknockers, and the invasion ensues. An invasion of body, mind, and soul. Fans of Stephen King’s monster horror style will enjoy this alien invasion novel.
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
Ted Chiang’s collection of short stories includes the novella, Story of Your Life, which formed the basis of the 2016 film, Arrival. Louise Banks is a linguist tasked with establishing communication with the “heptapods”, an alien species that have landed on Earth. At the same time, she is grieving the death of her twelve year-old daughter. As she dives deeper into understanding their alien language, which seems to have no human equivalent, she also gains a deeper understanding of the stated reality. Fans who enjoyed the highly successful and critically acclaimed film will love the novella.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
Dr. Miles Bennell of Mill Valley, California, inadvertently uncovers an insidious plot. Alien lifeforms are silently, and almost imperceptibly, taking over the bodies and minds of his neighbors, friends, family, the woman he loves, and the rest of the world as he knows it. Seeds that have fallen to earth from space, perfectly duplicate and replace sleeping people, retaining their memories and knowledge. The novel explores themes of the human spirit triumphant over an invisible enemy. Published in 1955, the story has been the inspiration for multiple film adaptations. Science fiction fans will enjoy this defining work of the alien invasion genre.
The Employees by Olga Ravn
The Employees is the story of the human and AI crew on board “The Six Thousand Ship”. It’s a space ship taking them to the planet “New Discovery”, where they obtain a number of alien objects. Written as a series of individual reports, the novel details the strange changes the crew go through as a result of being in close proximity to the objects. They have a profound emotional impact on the crew, causing them to hallucinate, question their own humanity, and induce severe separation anxiety. Ravn’s novel is a beautiful and foreboding psychological take on alien encounters.
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
During China’s cultural revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space with the hope of establishing contact with aliens. When it reaches an alien civilization on the brink of destruction and planning to invade earth, the planet is divided into two camps. Those who, hoping to end the corruption that has become prevalent, intend to help the aliens take over the planet, and those who intend to fight. This science fiction novel is the perfect read for fans of the dystopian genre.
Alien invasion novels are insanely popular for a reason. They’re gripping, many being turned into highly successful films. Even more, the unwavering thought that these fictional stories may one day become reality makes them all the more compelling. Now that we’ve scratched the surface of the alien invasion genre, let us know what you think! Do you agree with our list, or do you have a favorite alien story we didn’t include here? For more on these books not of planet Earth, read our article here!