In Sylvain Neuvel’s sci-fi novel Sleeping Giants—which was self-published in 2014, received a starred Kirkus review, and then published traditionally by Del Rey this year—a young girl discovers a giant robot buried in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It turns out to be the work of aliens, and it’s not long before the U.S. government gets involved. Indie publishing is no stranger to tales of aliens and government operatives—a classic setup that recalls alien-invasion movies of the 1950s.

In Martin A. Rosen’s self-published Return to Roswell, a photographer finds that his grandfather had taken pictures of alien technology—and a dead alien—in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. His investigation uncovers a longtime government conspiracy, and in the book’s 2015 sequel, the CIA trains a group to find out more about the Redexians, who may be planning an attack. Kirkus’ reviewer said that Rosen’s “surprising—and hilarious—solution to Earth’s ills will leave readers feeling hopeful.”

John Clarke’s 2015 techno-thriller Middle Waters features an apparent UFO crash in the ocean and what Kirkus’ reviewer called “semiruthless operatives of the U.S. government” pursuing undersea aliens. The review called it a “buoyant undersea-alien yarn that’d make an awesome beach read.”

The Receiver (2014) by Stephen Johnston Weatherford features a very different type of first contact. In 2069, a university astronomer receives a signal from an alien race, which the highly religious government tries to cover up. It includes instructions on how to create a visitor who looks like a young, human woman. The astronomer and alien go on to have long discussions about human society. Kirkus’ reviewer said that “Weatherford’s notions are often frighteningly smart” in this “brainy, tragicomic subversion of university life, the universe, and everything.” David Rapp is an Indie editor.