First Contact stories

I’ve recently finished ‘The Sparrow’ by Mary Doria Russell which dealt with a human expedition to an alien planet. If you can overlook the fact that the environment would be so hospitable I thought it was a nice and well thought out depiction of an alien society and the humans impact on it.

I’m a sucker for ‘first contact’ stories in general though and wondered if anyone has any other recommendations. A short summary or description would also be nice, thanks.

Another FC story with a RC Priest as protagonist is the classic A Case of Conscience by Jame Blish. No interspecies ass rape :eek: but it does go into the problem of evil quite nicely, and the aliens and their society are cool. I especially love their Radio Tree.

You do know there’s a sequel to The Sparrow, I take it.

The Mote in God’s Eye is pretty good. Fairly hard scifi too.

There’s a whole collection of these in a volume called, oddly enough, “First Contacts”. You might find it at a used-book shop or on-line.

One of the stories in it (and several anthologies) is Murray Leinster’s “Fitrst Contact” – what do you do if you don’t fully trust your alien contact?

Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, and Rendezvous with Rama (sorta), and, of course, 2001

Harry Turtledove’s “World War” and “Colonization” series.

One of the Honor Harrington spin-off books, More Than Honor, tells the story of how humans were first introduced to the native society of Sphinx, the Treecats. (The Treecats, for their part, had been spying on the human settlers for years, while also concealing the entire existence of their society and race from the intruders). Long story short, a young girl catches a Treecat trying to sneak off with a sack full of celery he had pilfered from her family’s greenhouse, and events transpire from there.

The TV movie Babylon 5: In the Beginning, details the disasterous first contact between the Earth Alliance and the Minbari Federation, and the resulting 5 year-long holy war that nearly resulted in the entire anihilation of the human race.

Incidentally, there are a few episodes of Babylon 5 and it’s spinoff, Crusade, that also deal with a wide variety of first contact situations, and one rather amusing inter-species “sex” scene. (Human-style, baby! :smiley: )

Before you know the whole story, you must read the sequel to The Sparrow, The Children of God. It will completely change your perceptions of the story in the first book! I love the exploration of the misperceptions that can arise when we judge others who are alien to us from within our own context.

I’m told that Cherryh’s Foreigner series is based upon first contact. Also, Broken Angels, by Richard Morgan, is said to be a good one. Also, Contact, which I haven’t yet read.

I especially liked the Xenogenesis Trilogy by Octavia Butler, in omnibus form as Lilith’s Brood.

I apologize for the double-post. I meant to add this link to a very long list of first contact books.

Thanks for the recommendations everyone.

Actually I did notice the sequel to The Sparrow, it was mentioned in the back of the book now that I think about it, but was somewhat leery of picking it up as the story of the first one was so nicely self-contained. But I’ll keep an eye out for it now.

On the topic a fun first contact story is the Damned Trilogy by Alan Dean Foster, still haven’t found the last book though and I’m looking for it because I’m almost sure I’ve figured out the twist ending.

I just finished “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman. It’s sort of a first contact story, but more concerned with the relativistic effects on warfare on a galactic scale. What is it like when 300 years go by on Earth during your 2 year mission? Told from the viewpoint one of 29 veterans of the entire conflict, which runs 2000 years earth time, IIRC.

A couple off the top of my head:

Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Stephen Barnes. Though…

…you don’t know the savage animals they discover are intelligent until the sequel, which is unfortunately, well, a sequel.

Speaker of the Dead by Orson Scott Card. Not so much first contact, but still deals largely with getting to know a new and alien culture.

Just thought of one more: Second Contact by Michael Resnick. It’s a twist on the genre, but I still enjoyed it.

The Mote in God’s Eys has a sequel - The Gripping Hand.

I don’t think that list doesn’t inculde Verner Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky.


I loved The Color of Distance by Amy Thomsan. The aliens were definitely very alien, it was great.

I’d dispute the information in your spoiler box, Subway ProphetSome of the Grendels are more intelligent than others, but I wouldn’t say that they’re much moree than, say, a decently-smart dog. Certainly not anywhere near a human level.A couple of my favorites:
“Old Faithful” by Raymond Z. Gallun, is about a first-contact between a human research group and a Martian (this was a while back, before we knew Mars is sterile). At first, the communication is all via telescopes and bright lights flashing Morse code, and we see some of the process of both sides figuring out what the various symbols mean. Eventually, though, the Martian gets into some sort of political trouble on Mars, and when the opportunity presents itself, flees to his friends on Earth. Unfortunately, the higher gravity ends up killing him.

“The Big Front Yard”, by Clifford D. Simak, has aliens introducing us to their interstellar culture. The protagonist is a tinkerer and old-school Yankee trader, and the first group of aliens turns his house into a sort of portal to another world. There’s no real communication with them, but they fix up a few odds and ends around the house in payment for the inconvenience, and the protagonist figures it’s a fair trade. Then he meets some other alien species in his “front yard” (a planet containing many such portals, for commerce and communications between the various worlds), and sets to bartering with them for valuable ideas.

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. I sorta knew how it would end, seeing as how I read the series backwards.

Is that the one where there’s all sorts of dancing around because neither side wants the other to be able to trace their homeworld?

It takes place a while after the FC, but flashes back to it, and I think it qualifies. So, too, does her excellent “The Pride of Chanur”.

Oh, thought of another one - Hal Clement’s Close To Critical. Excellent hardSF-y story about making FC on a world completely hostile to human life, using natives raised by a robot. Also involves a rescue mission.

James White’s Sector General books are full of first contact stories, and are set on a multispecies hospital and a rescue/ambulance ship. In fact, it becomes the Federation’s primary source of first contact, generally by rescuing and healing some unknown species.

Anne McCaffery’s Decision on Doona is a first contact story between a small colony of humans who discover a village of foxlike aliens; I can’t go into more details without spoiling, except to say that nothing is what it seems.

Both Nor Crystal Tears and Sentenced to Prism by Alan Dean Foster are first contact stories set in his Humanx universe. The first records the first meeting between humans and thranx, the second involves a stranded troubleshooter falling in with some silicon based aliens who stumble upon him.

Illegal Alien by Robert Sawyer involves a group of aliens called the Tosok who land on Earth and ask for help repairing their spacecraft, in return for some technology; everything goes smoothly, until a human is murdered, and the evidence points to one of the Tosok. He’s put on trial, and complications ensue.

The Gentle Giants of Ganymede by James P Hogan recounts the first encounter between Earth and the Giants, complicated by the fact that they have been travelling for 25 million years ( 20 years subjective ) thanks to a damaged drive, and their world is now the asteroid belt and Pluto. It’s the seocnd in a series, however.

Code of the Lifemaker, also by Hogan is the first encounter between humans and sentient robots derived from a defective alien probe/factory that has turned Titan into a robotic ecology of replicating, evolving machines.

Ursula Le Guin’s The Word For World Is Forest is a first contact alien invasion story, only we’re the aliens. Brutal giants who call themselves “yumens” invade a world of peaceful little green men.

Thouught that was Way Station…

I’m not familiar with that one, but I just looked it up on Amazon. It sounds like he used some of the same ideas, but it doesn’t look like it’s set in the same continuity as “The Big Front Yard”. Which I’m certain is the one I was thinking of; I just checked my copy.

D’oh, the book I’m reading is about first contact: Learning the World, by Ken MacLeod, a Hugo nominee this year.