25 Best First Contact Books

Welcome to Top Sci Fi’s guide to the top 25 first contact books out there. The list includes a mix of classic and modern books related to first contact scenarios. The books have been chosen to offer something for everyone, with a wide range of different literary styles, levels of scientific depth, and narrative focus. If any of the first contact books interest you, feel free to check them out with Audible's one month free trial.


The War of the Worlds

By H.G Wells 

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H.G Wells’ first contact novel is notorious due to its radio adaptation leading to mass real-world panic that aliens were invading. The War of the Worlds is significant due to its influence on later works of science fiction. After all, the book was released at a time when humankind hadn’t even mastered flight, making the technological depictions of aliens even more impressive.


Rendezvous with Rama

By Arthur C Clarke

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Rendezvous With Rama is one of the all-time classic science fiction stories, its reputation transcending the first contact genre. The story deals with the appearance of a mysterious craft, dubbed Rama, and attempts to explore and understand what it is and what it means for humanity. Rendezvous With Rama is widely praised for its focus on scientific detail.



By Carl Sagan

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Contact by Carl Sagan is given extra plausibility by the fact its author is one of the greatest modern scientists. The story deals with the implications of first contact uncovered by Project Argus, a listening project devoted to searching the stars for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. The story is gripping and readable, offering an insight into the first contact scenario as envisioned by one of science’s finest minds. 


Childhood's End

By Arthur C Clarke

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Science fiction titan Arthur C Clarke’s first contact story explores the arrival of The Overlords, an enigmatic alien race who intervene to change the nature of human society. As well as offering a masterful depiction of first contact, Childhood’s End raises questions of the nature of peace, creativity, and how human society should ideally function.



By Peter Watts

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Blindsight is the first installment of Peter Watts’ Firefall series. It takes an innovative approach to the first contact scenario, portraying humanity as taking the initiative to investigate and make contact when objects from an alien world appear. Blindsight doesn’t shy away from frequent use of in-depth, technical language, so is an ideal choice for serious science fiction fans.



By Stanislaw Lem

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Solaris is widely-known for its film adaptations, but the translation of Polish author Stanislaw Lem’s written work is well worth reading. Solaris offers a philosophical spin on first contact, merging ideas of space exploration with meditations on consciousness, human memory, and psychological repression.


First Contact

By Michael R. Hicks 

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The first installment of Michael R. Hicks’ ‘In Her Name’ series, First Contact is a tale of encountering a warrior race with superior technology. The book is renowned for its epic battle scenes which take place both in space and on Earth. Aside from the detailed war scenes, First Contact is praised for its ability to convey the human response to an encounter with a superior warrior race.


The Mote in God's Eye

By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle 

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Believed to be the favorite novel of science fiction stalwart Robert. A Heinlein, The Mote in God’s Eye is one of the all time greatest first contact novels. The story explores the first encounter between humanity and a remote civilization. The alien civilization is ancient and welcoming, but as first contact progresses, things are revealed to be more complex than they first seem.


Ghosts Of Ophidian

By Scott McElhaney

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Scott Mcelhaney explores humanity’s response to a massive alien spacecraft appearing and seeming to do nothing. The NASA team sent to explore it soon discover a vast array of cryogenically preserved creatures. Ghosts of Ophidian merges classic concepts from the first contact genre with a gripping and engaging element of human mystery.



By CJ Cherryh

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The first installment in CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series is a exciting first contact story based around a human spaceship being forced to land on a hostile alien world. As well as serving as a captivating introduction to Cherryh’s series, Foreigner is a gripping and thought-provoking first contact novel in its own right. The psychology of a different species is masterfully and thoroughly depicted.


The Gods Themselves

By Isaac Asimov

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Isaac Asimov is widely regarded as one of the finest writers to ever grace the science fiction genre, and The Gods Themselves was chosen by the author as his personal favorite work. The novel explores first contact with a parallel universe and the wider implications of interaction between universes. As well as showcasing serious scientific concepts, The Gods Themselves offers engaging and memorable human characters.


The Andromeda Strain

By Michael Crichton

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The Andromeda Strain is a gripping first contact tale exploring the implications of alien biology interfering with the normal functioning of humankind. Like Michael Crichton’s other work, The Andromeda Strain makes heavy use of scientific detail. This tends to polarize readers, with some enjoying the technical side of the novel, and others finding it burdensome. This is a classic first contact exploration suited for fans of scientifically detailed yet gripping storytelling.


The Puppet Masters

By Robert A. Heinlein

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Robert A. Heinlein is one of the heavyweights of the science fiction world, and The Puppet Masters is a fascinating first contact exploration with a social message undertone. The Puppet Masters explores humanity’s resistance to a form of alien control which has managed to infiltrate even the upper tiers of the US government. Protagonist Sam Cavanaugh helps readers relate to Heinlein’s depiction of the alien infiltration of Iowa.


Close Encounters of the Third Kind

By Steven Spielberg

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Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind is remarkable due to the fact that many fans of the film version offer equal praise for the novel. As well as offering probably the best known depiction of first contact, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind offers a relatable story featuring many hallmarks of 70s and 80s American culture. A true landmark within the first contact genre.



By Peter Cawdron

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Peter Cawdron considers the implications of first contact between humanity and an alien civilization with a giant technological gap. Anomaly draws upon scientific concepts related to communication and new physics, but presents them in a lightweight, relatable way which is accessible to almost any reader. The focus of Anomaly is on the human response to a first contact scenario, rather than the science behind it.


The Three-Body Problem

By Liu Cixin

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The Three-Body Problem is the first installment in Liu Cixin’s ‘Remembrance of Earth’s Past’ series. The Three-Body Problem draws upon heavy scientific concepts, such as frontier science, but relates them through the lens of human experience and emotion. Cixin is also able to merge ideas related to personal human freedom and society with classic first contact tropes.



By Michael F. Flynn

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Michael F. Flynn presents a unique take on the first contact genre by exploring it from the perspective of a priest in the 1400s. Flynn offers a thorough and convincing portrayal of both the German society of the 1400s as well as the alien race. Eifelheim is an ideal choice for first contact fans looking for an atypical depiction of the scenario and its implications for human history.


The Forge of God

By Greg Bear

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Greg Bear begins his Forge of God series with this novel depicting first contact between humanity and an alien messenger. The story makes use of concepts from science and geology to consider the implications of an alien warning and humanity’s response to it. The Forge of God has a gripping narrative structure to keep readers hooked until the last page.



By David Brin

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David Brin uses Existence to explore the first contact scenario from the relatable perspective of orbital garbage collector Gerald Livingston. Existence is fascinating for contemporary readers as it explores the logical conclusion of our current computer age and grapples with questions related to AI and big data. Existence is a fine example of serious, technical science fiction with a relatable human protagonist.



By Larry Niven

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Footfall by Larry Niven is an exciting depiction of a first contact scenario taking place within the context of an alien invasion. The novel makes use of themes of its 1980s time of writing such as the relations between the United States and the Soviet union. Footfall’s focus is on action and excitement, and is a great choice for science fiction fans who prefer exhilarating stories to ponderous meditation.


Blind Lake

By Robert Charles Wilson

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Robert Charles Wilson offers a fascinating take on the first contact genre by considering the implications of being able to watch, but not interact with, an alien species. Blind Lake explores ideas relating to human fear, government control, and the commonality between all sentient life. Wilson is equally praised for his handling of scientific concepts and his narrative command, with the ending in particular drawing praise.



By Robert J Sawyer

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Robert J Sawyer draws upon themes from both the first contact tradition as well as broader science fiction in Rollback. The story focuses on Dr. Sarah Halifax, the decoder of the first two messages ever received by humankind from aliens. Rollback focuses heavily on Halifax and her husband, and much of the book is dialogue driven. The novel is an ideal choice for fans of human focused first contact science fiction. 


The Color of Distance

By Amy Thomson

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The Color of Distance is a first contact story exploring a sole survivor’s attempt to survive and assimilate into a strange alien world. Author Amy Thomson deploys a narrative which switches perspectives between the main human character and several alien characters, offering insight into the alien psyche which isn’t always found in first contact novels. The Color of Distance is widely praised for its convincing and thorough depiction of the alien world on which it is set.


In the Ocean of Night

By Gregory Benford 

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Gregory Benford’s first contact story was originally released in an episodic format. The story focuses on the interception of what seems to be an asteroid on course to collide with Earth, but is in actual fact a disguised alien spacecraft. In the Ocean of Night offers an interesting tale, spanning decades, pondering the intentions of alien societies and the ways in which humans are likely to respond.


Yesterday's Kin

By Nancy Kress

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Nancy Kress ponders how humanity would respond to a ten-month countdown to annihilation at the hands of alien spores. Yesterday’s Kin is a first contact tale which delves deep into the conflicting human responses to possible destruction at the hands of an outsider. Many parallels can be drawn between the divided human reaction and the current state of contemporary politics.

What Makes a Sci-Fi First Contact Book? 

First contact focuses on one of the most fundamental questions posed by science fiction - how would humankind cope with encountering alien life? This question has inspired science fiction’s greatest minds for decades. The concept may seem far-fetched, but here are two real everyday struggles that First Contact books address.

Number One: Xenophobia. Xenophobia is defined as the fear and mistrust of that which is strange and foreign. And that's what the "alien" life is in first contact books. Many times in this genre the initial reaction of the general populous to first contact is fear. Fear of full scale invasion. Now... let's face it. Invasion does sell books. But not all first contact stories end with an invasion such as Contact by Carl Sagan.  

Number Two: Transcendentalism. This is a big scary word with a very simple explanation. Transcendentalism means that people have knowledge that goes beyond what their senses can feel. And this knowledge doesn't come from logic but from an individual's own intuition. Many protagonists in first contact books have identity issues. After realizing they are not alone in this universe, many begin to question their purpose and role in the universe.

And these two issues became very real through science fiction on October 30, 1938.

Are We Ready for Aliens?

War of the Worlds: A Nation Under Siege

At 23 years old, Orson Welles was a young, innovative mastermind of entertainment. At the time, he was a well known radio personality all across the country, mostly though for his voice of The Shadow for a radio broadcast of the same name. So when Orson presented his idea to the Columbia Broadcasting System (now modern day CBS) for a radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, they wholeheartedly accepted.

And soon came the day when Welles would cement himself in notoriety.

When the show started, Orson had no intention of it becoming a radio hoax. Instead, he figured it to be just an ingenious radio broadcast. In true H.G. fashion, the Martians had landed and started conquering. Killing, pillaging, and destroying all in their path. By all means, it was an excellent program. 

But maybe too excellent.

The story arcs and details where presented in such a way that the general public began to believe Orson's story as truth. The aliens had landed and... Panic ensued. People began to feel their place in the universe. One in which they were oh-so-very small. Estimates put that up to one million listeners that day believed in the invasion.

When news of the widespread calamity reached the studio, Orson quickly went on air to explain that all was just for entertainment value, but the damage had already been done. The FCC went on to do an investigation against CBS and Welles but determined no laws were actually broken. 

So, if first contact actually did happen in our lifetime... Would the general public still react the same? Or would there attempt to be a more diplomatic approach? Only time will tell. 

Get These Best SciFi First Contact Books for Free!

Want to try some of these First Contact books for free? Here are two ways you can do that:

1. Signup with Audible's One Month Free Trial: When you sign up for an Audible trial, you can select two books at no cost as a way of seeing if the service is right for you. If it is, you can continue your membership and continue to listen to the best books science fiction has to offer. If not, you can cancel at no cost, and keep the two free books you downloaded.  

1 thought on “25 Best First Contact Books”

  1. Nice selection of first contact books. I have a problem, though. I have been searching for this two books for years.
    First book I had was a thick book, the cover is blue, like surface of water. The novel opens with people discovering a world of blue alien people whose skin are blue. Not Avatar the movie, much different. Unfortunately someone stole the book before I could read further, right off my bike down the road at the old video shop one fine day back in the 1990s. I never could find the book or its title ever again, the shock was so great as to wiped the details of it out of my mind. Great, thanks a lot thief.
    The second book is the one I found online, BUT lost as well, before I could get the title and author’s name. So frustrating. This happens back in the dialup days. Slow connections, disconnection, smh.
    Anyways, this book was about mankind finally getting off the planet and living in space, exploring the universe, exploring galaxies, discovering habitable worlds, but never any trace of any civilisation, ancient or recent. Mankind asks if they’re alone in this universe. They explored as far as to the ends of the universe, and came back, they been everywhere. Conclusion, they’re alone. So they kept on living, building their civilisation in space, on countless worlds. Okay, then one day, a message or contact of some kind from some kind of alien spaceship. The details is murky in my mind. I only reads the blurb once, but that’s the gist of what I recall of that book, on some kind of website.
    Mankind spreads to the stars, asking one question, are we alone in the universe? They explored the worlds in every galaxies and found only habitable worlds, and no one living on these worlds, no beings, no gods, no aliens, nothing. Just mankind explorers.
    Then the contact. A contradiction, yeah. What’s the contact? Who are these aliens and where were they? Mankind had been seeking contact with aliens for thousands of years, and finally there they are.
    That’s all I remember.
    I hopes to find the title, the cover of the book, the blurb that matches what I remembers.
    I’m hoping you’d know, perhaps. Because that’s the part of the “first contact” types of books that’s what I’m looking for.


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