Monday, December 26, 2022

Five books where assuming aliens are just like you might get you killed

Karen Osborne is the author of Architects of Memory and Engines of Oblivion from Tor Books. Her short fiction appears in Uncanny, Clarkesworld, FiresideEscape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding.

Osborne lives in Baltimore, MD, with two violins, an autoharp, five cameras, two cats and a family.

At the she tagged five books where assuming aliens are just like you might get you killed, including:
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Corporations in science fiction aren’t always evil—but they’re usually out to ruin everyone’s day by assuming this, that, and the other thing, and that’s certainly the case with Leviathan Wakes and its sequels. This time, the Mao-Kwikowski Corporation has uncovered an alien substance known as the protomolecule, and they’re attempting to use it to do what corporations generally want to do: increase their profits. The crew of the Rocinante,
captained by idealist James Holden, stumbles upon the conspiracy, which eventually leads to a domino-fall of lies, cover-ups, and all-out war.

Corey’s corporates cause so much trouble because they assume they can control the alien substance—but, throughout, the protomolecule is dispassionate and efficient and largely uncontrollable. The result of human refusal to even try to understand it is death by blindness, death by spaghettification, death by being turned into a blue glowy murder monster or smashed into a thin red goo—you get the picture. Assumptions lead to every single death.

Holden is part of the minority that realize that a healthy scientific respect of the alien devices is the only advantage the humans have in their dealings with the protomolecule. Leviathan Wakes is what happens when you can’t talk to the aliens at all, because they’ve sauntered off and left their toys behind for humans with their many and manifold conflicts to puzzle out and assume (#4? #5? #2827372?) the aliens’ original intentions.

That ends about as well as you’d imagine.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Expanse series is among Charlie Jane Anders's five fantastic books about colonizing other planets.

--Marshal Zeringue