2015 is just around the corner which means that I have started to look back to what I’ve read in 2014 in preparation for our upcoming Best of the Year list. And as I looked through those books, I came to a startling realization: not only have I read more science fiction than ever before, I also happened to have read tons (and I do mean tons) of alien books. And quite a few of those books will figure prominently in my Top 10 of 2014. Here’s a few of my favorites:
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie: The sequel to the multiple-award-winner Ancillary Justice, this book was my top one most anticipated read of 2014 and it did not disappoint—Ancillary Sword is a different animal altogether from its predecessor with a more linear narrative and a different focus but just as good as Ancillary Justice. The aliens in this series are the mysterious Presger who appear as both threat and potential allies.
The Seeker Star by Susan Jane Bigelow: Another sequel to a notable read of 2013 (The Daughter Star), The Seeker Star is the second book in the Grayline Sisters series. Focusing on Violet Grayline, the serious, pragmatic sister Who Stayed Behind, The Seeker Star has Susan Jane Bigelow’s trademarks all over it: complex characters placed in complicated, difficult situations having to think through and make all the hard decisions that most people would be grateful to avoid. The Abrax are the aliens here and their story and how it connects to the story of humankind is tragic, horrifying and fascinating. Violet’s journey is incredible from start to finish, coming full circle in the best possible way.
Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall: Mars Evacuees was probably one of the most fun books I’ve read all year. It’s a middle grade novel in which kids are evacuated to Mars once the war against the invading aliens Morrors on Earth has reached the tipping point. With a great, snarky narrative voice, the book features diverse characters, kids doing awesome things and saving the day and aliens that aren’t as terrible as one had originally thought and also: ROBOTS. ON MARS.
Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach: the stunning conclusion to the Paradox series in which protagonist Devi Morris stands to lose everything she cares about—but she will not go down without a fight. Between the government, the Bad Aliens, the Good Aliens, the virus that is consuming her from the inside and the complicated relationship with her lover Rupert, this last book packs a lot of action and still manages to end on a high note of cool heroism. I will miss Devi a lot now that the series is over.
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor: The author’s answer to the movie District 9 (which she despised), Lagoon’s story followsthe alien invasion of planet Earth from its beginning in Lagos, Nigeria. It is both an incredible piece of science fiction on its own and a love letter to the myriad of diverse stories and histories of Lagos and its people.
The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu: I never knew hard science fiction could be so riveting. I mean, here we have a book whose main concern is the search for a solution to a physics problem (the three-body problem of the title) that has puzzled scientists for centuries. But boy, was this done in a way that kept the pages turning—especially when it’s revealed that the solution to that problem could possibly mean the end of all life on Earth. Add to that a plotline that goes back and forth in time, virtual reality gaming and China’s Cultural Revolution and you have one of my absolutely favourite reads of the year.
And there you have it: my favorite alien books of 2014. What’s most interesting about this list, if I may so myself, is the variety of approaches to The Alien Problem—from friendly to foe, from allies to mortal enemies. Plus, most of these books are incredibly fun to read without ever losing sight of larger issues.