Monday, December 26, 2011

Alien Invasion!

OK, so we all know the standard, typical alien invasion storyline:
1) Technologically advanced aliens launch a full-scale invasion upon an unsuspecting earth
2) Earthlings briefly unite in a valiant, but ultimately futile attempt to resist the invation
3) aliens dominate the earth - all hope is lost
4) some inexplicable disaster befalls the aliens,
who die/retreat/both
5)earthlings unite for a time, then revert to our old ways until the next alien invation forces us to repeat the whole process

H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds is a classic example of this storyline, though I am sure there are a myriad of movies, games, books, etc. that follow the same basic plot.

If you are bored with the standard line, or would just find a bit of a variation on this theme somewhat refreshing, I highly recommend Lewis and Clarke. Not that Lewis and Clarke. Rather Perelanda, book one in the space trilogy by C.S. Lewis (best known for his Chronicles of Narnia series) and Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, who, among other things, was responsible for a 1945 article that led to the invention of satillite technology. Each author turns the typical alien invasion story on its head.

In Lewis' Perelandra, the first in a trilogy of sci-fi novels, it is humans themselves who play the role of noxious invader, whose presence on Mars threatens to disrupt the peaceful existence of various fantastic Marsian races. Only the intervention of a higher intelligence and a human hostage thwart disaster. 

In Clarke's work, there is indeed the alien invasion, but in this case the race of alien proves apparantly benevolent.  Indeed, their presence leads to the cesation of war and ushers in an era of unimagined peace and prosperity.  And yet, some cannot help but wonder about their ultimage motives, especially as the aliens have refused to make any sort of direct contact and will only interact with people through a designated mediator.  When at last both the character of the alien race, and its ultimage purpose in coming to earth are disclosed, neither could have been anticipated.

Although both Lewis and Clarke wrote their respectives works in the 1940s and 1950s, and thus some of the descriptions of technology seem a bit dated, both works exhibit an ability to provide imaginative and believeable trajectories of their own times, paired with vigorous sociological critiques that render them timeless.

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