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Understand

Ted Chiang

Hugo Award nominated novelette. It originally appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, August 1991. The story can also be found in the anthologies Supermen: Tales of the Posthuman Future (2002), edited by Gardner Dozois and The Hard SF Renaissance (2002), edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. It is included in the collection Stories of Your Life and Others (2002).

Story of Your Life

Ted Chiang

This novella originally appeared in the anthology Starlight 2, (1998), edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and was reprinted in Lightspeed, December 2012. It can also be found in the anthologies:

The story is included in the collection Stories of Your Life and Others.

Adapted into the movie The Arrival in 2016.

Halfway Human

Twenty Planets Universe: Book 1

Carolyn Ives Gilman

Tedla is a 'bland,' an asexual class of people that exist only to serve their fellow beings.

Val is an expert on alien cultures but has never seen a bland before. They come together after Tedla is found light-years away from its home planet-alone, isolated and suicidal. Val's mission is to help Tedla recover. But the more she learns about the beautiful alien being, the more she discovers about the torment Tedla and its kind suffer on their planet.

Little does the rest of the universe know of the hidden world of the blands, a world that hides shocking secrets and unspeakable crimes.

Halfway Human is a mesmerizing look at an intricately created alien world which is strange and distant, yet hauntingly familiar.

Rosewater

Wormwood Trilogy: Book 1

Tade Thompson

Between meeting a boy who bursts into flames, alien floaters that want to devour him, and a butterfly woman who he has sex with when he enters the xenosphere, Kaaro's life is far from the simple one he wants. But he left simple behind a long time ago when he was caught stealing and nearly killed by an angry mob. Now he works for a government agency called Section 45, and they want him to find a women known as Bicycle Girl. And that's just the beginning.

An alien entity lives beneath the ground, forming a biodome around which the city of Rosewater thrives. The cities of Rosewater are enamored by the dome, hoping for a chance to meet the beings within or possibly be invited to come in themselves. But Kaaro isn't so enamored. He was in the biodome at one point and decided to leave it behind. When something begins killing off other sensitives like himself, Kaaro defies Section 45 to search for an answer, facing his past and comes to a realization about a horrifying future.

The Inheritors

William Golding

Eight Neanderthals encounter another race of beings like themselves, yet strangely different. This new race, Homo sapiens, fascinating in their skills and sophistication, terrifying in their cruelty, sense of guilt, and incipient corruption, spell doom for the more gentle folk whose world they will inherit.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Hainish Cycle: Book 4

Ursula K. Le Guin

Genly Ai is an ethnologist observing the people of the planet Gethen, a world perpetually in winter. The people there are androgynous, normally neuter, but they can become male ot female at the peak of their sexual cycle. They seem to Genly Ai alien, unsophisticated and confusing. But he is drawn into the complex politics of the planet and, during a long, tortuous journey across the ice with a politician who has fallen from favour and has been outcast, he loses his professional detachment and reaches a painful understanding of the true nature of Gethenians and, in a moving and memorable sequence, even finds love...

City of Pearl

The Wess'Har Series: Book 1

Karen Traviss

Three separate alien societies have claims on Cavanagh's Star. But the new arrivals -- the gethes from Earth -- now threaten the tenuous balance of a coveted world.

Environmental Hazard Enforcement officer Shan Frankland agreed to lead a mission to Cavanagh's Star, knowing that 150 years would elapse before she could finally return home. But her landing, with a small group of scientists and Marines, has not gone unnoticed by Aras, the planet's designated guardian. An eternally evolving world himself, this sad, powerful being has already obliterated millions of alien interlopers and their great cities to protect the fragile native population. Now Shan and her party -- plus the small colony of fundamentalist humans who preceded them -- could face a similar annihilation... or a fate far worse. Because Aras possesses a secret of the blood that would be disastrous if it fell into human hands -- if the gethes survive the impending war their coming has inadvertently hastened.

His Master's Voice

Stanislaw Lem

Scientists studying the phenomenon of neutrino radiation suddenly realize that the cosmic emissions are conveying a message for humanity, and the race is on to decode the alien transmission.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Space Odyssey: Book 1

Arthur C. Clarke

On the moon, an enigma is uncovered. So great are the implications of the discovery that, for the first time, men are sent out deep into the solar system. But before they can reach their destination, things begin to go wrong. Horribly wrong.

Childhood's End

Arthur C. Clarke

When the silent spacecraft arrived and took the light from the world, no one knew what to expect. But, although the Overlords kept themselves hidden from man, they had come to unite a warring world and to offer an end to poverty and crime.

When they finally showed themselves it was a shock, but one that humankind could now cope with, and an era of peace, prosperity and endless leisure began.

But the children of this utopia dream strange dreams of distant suns and alien planets, and begin to evolve into something incomprehensible to their parents, and soon they will be ready to join the Overmind...and, in a grand and thrilling metaphysical climax, leave the Earth behind.

Downward to the Earth

Robert Silverberg

Gundersen returned to Holman's World seeking atonement for his harsh years as colonial governer. But now this lush, exotic planet of mystery was called by its ancient name of Belzagor, and it belonged once again to its native alien races, the nildoror and the sulidoror. Drawn by its spell, Gundersen began a harrowing pilgrimage to its mist-shrouded north, to witness a strange ritual rebirth that would alter him forever.

The Man in the Maze

Robert Silverberg

Continuing the third in a series of authoritative new editions of the novels of Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Robert Silverberg. During his heroic first encounter with an alien race, Dick Muller was permanently altered, hideously transformed in a way that left him repulsive to the entire human race. Alone and embittered, he exiled himself to Lemnos, an abandoned planet famed for its labyrinthine horrors, both real and imagined. But now, Earth trembles on the brink of extinction, threatened by another alien species, and only Muller can rescue the planet. Men must enter the murderous maze of Lemnos, find Muller, and convince him to come back. But will the homeless alien, alone in the universe, risk his life to save his race, the race that has utterly rejected him?

Polar City Blues

Katharine Kerr

Polar City: capital of Hagar, one of the handful of worlds on which the tiny, human-dominated Republic sits, uneasily squeezed between the powerful Interstellar Confederation and the enormous Coreward Alliance.

When a suspected alien spy from the Confederation Embassy is found murdered, a potentially explosive political situation faces Police Chief Bates.

And when talanted psychic Mulligan is brought to the scene to pick up echoes of the event, what he experiences sends him into amnesiac shock.

Meanwhile, murders continue unabated and a major crisis threatens to destabilise the Republic ....

Tomorrow's Kin

Yesterday's Kin: Book 1

Nancy Kress

The aliens have arrived... they've landed their Embassy ship on a platform in New York Harbor, and will only speak with the United Nations. They say that their world is so different from Earth, in terms of gravity and atmosphere, that they cannot leave their ship. The population of Earth has erupted in fear and speculation.

One day Dr. Marianne Jenner, an obscure scientist working with the human genome, receives an invitation that she cannot refuse. The Secret Service arrives at her college to escort her to New York, for she has been invited, along with the Secretary General of the UN and a few other ambassadors, to visit the alien Embassy.

The truth is about to be revealed. Earth's most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster--and not everyone is willing to wait.

The Demolished Man

Alfred Bester

In the year 2301, guns are only museum pieces and benign telepaths sweep the minds of the populace to detect crimes before they happen. In 2301 murder is virtually impossible, but one man is about to change that...

Ben Reich, a psychopathic business magnate, has devised the ultimate scheme to eliminate the competition and destroy the order of his society. The Demolished Man is a masterpiece of imaginative suspense, set in a superbly imagined world in which everything has changed except the ancient instinct for murder.

More Than Human

Masters of Science Fiction: Book 29

Theodore Sturgeon

First published in 1953, this most celebrated of Sturgeon's works won the International Fantasy Award, as has been touted as "a masterpiece of provocative storytelling" (The Herald Tribune).

A group of remarkable social outcasts band together for survival and discover their combined powers renders them superhuman.

The Long Cosmos

The Long Earth: Book 5

Stephen Baxter
Terry Pratchett

The thrilling conclusion to the internationally bestselling Long Earth series explores the greatest question of all: What is the meaning of life?

2070-71. Nearly six decades after Step Day, a new society continues to evolve in the Long Earth. Now, a message has been received: "Join us."

The Next--the hyper-intelligent post-humans--realize that the missive contains instructions for kick-starting the development of an immense artificial intelligence known as The Machine. But to build this computer the size of an Earth continent, they must obtain help from the more populous and still industrious worlds of mankind.

Meanwhile, on a trek in the High Meggers, Joshua Valienté, now nearing seventy, is saved from death when a troll band discovers him. Living among the trolls as he recovers, Joshua develops a deeper understanding of this collective-intelligence species and its society. He discovers that some older trolls, with capacious memories, act as communal libraries, and live on a very strange Long Earth world, in caverns under the root systems of trees as tall as mountains.

Valienté also learns something much more profound... about life and its purpose in the Long Earth: We cultivate the cosmos to maximize the opportunities for life and joy in this universe, and to prepare for new universes to come.

Embassytown

China MiƩville

China Miéville doesn't follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer-and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field-with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties-to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

War with the Newts

Gregg Press Science Fiction Series: Book 9

Karel Capek

One of the great anti-utopian satires of the twentieth century, an inspiration to writers from Orwell to Vonnegut, at last in a modern translation. Man discovers a species of giant, intelligent newts and learns to exploit them so successfully that the newts gain skills and arms enough to challenge man's place at the top of the animal kingdom. Along the way, Karel Capek satirizes science, runaway capitalism, fascism, journalism, militarism, even Hollywood.

The Underpeople

Cordwainer Smith

The Underpeople were mutated from animal stock to serve mankind. They lived Deepdown in the forgotten corridors and caverns of Old Earth, servants to the men who bred them in their own image.

But even the Underpeople dream - and often have strange powers. And now they have a strange ally in the richest man who ever lived: the man who owned the whole planet.

Dying Inside

Robert Silverberg

David Selig was born with an awesome power - the ability to look deep into the human heart, to probe the darkest truths hidden in the secret recesses of the soul. With reckless abandon, he used his talent in the pursuit of pleasure. Then, one day, his power began to die...

Dying Inside is a vivid, harrowing portrait of a man who squandered a remarkable gift, of a superman who had to learn what it was to be human.

Pilgrimage: The Book of the People

The People

Zenna Henderson

They were feared as witches and demons...

They possessed superhuman powers...

They could read minds, free objects from gravity, fly through the air...

They lived alone and outcast in an isolated canyon...

They were THE PEOPLE!

The Glamour

Christopher Priest

Cameraman Richard Grey's memory has blanked out the few weeks before he was injured in a car bomb explosion. When he is visited by a girl who seems to have been his lover, his attempts to recall the forgotten period produce an odyssey through France and conflicting accounts of what happened. When Susan Kewley speaks to him of that time, he finds himself glimpsing a terrible twilight world - the world of "the glamour".

Tides of Light

The Galactic Center Series: Book 4

Gregory Benford

The sequel to "Great Sky River", this book continues the author's chronicle of life at the galaxy's centre, many centuries in the future. A band of humans flee aboard a regenerated starship to another planet where the mechs are in retreat but an even greater threat of alien cyborgs exists.

The Fresco

Sheri S. Tepper

The bizarre events that have been occuring across the United States -- unexplained "oddities" tracked by Air Defense, mysterious disappearances, shocking deaths -- seem to have no bearing on Benita Alvarez-Shipton's life. That is, until the soft-spoken thirty-six-year-old bookstore manager is approached by a pair of aliens asking her to transmit their message of peace to the powers in Washington. An abused Albuquerque wife with low self-esteem, Benita has been chosen to act as the sole liaison between the human race and the Pistach, who have offered their human hosts a spectacular opportunity for knowledge and enrichment.

But ultimately Benita will be called upon to do much more than deliver messages -- and may, in fact, be responsible for saving the Earth. Because the Pistach are not the only space-faring species currently making their presence known on her unsuspecting planet. And the others are not so benevolent.

Beggars and Choosers

The Sleepless: Book 2

Nancy Kress

In Beggars and Choosers, Kress returns to the same future world created in her earlier work, an America strangely altered by genetic modifications...

Most of the world is on the verge of collapse, overburdened by a population of jobless drones and racked by the results of irresponsible genetic research and nanotechnology. Will the world be saved? And for whom?

Forty Thousand in Gehenna

Allliance-Union: Unionside: Book 1

C. J. Cherryh

Set in the same future as the Hugo-winning Downbelow Station, but fully self-contained, this is a story on the classic theme of human understanding of the alien. . . . Once again, Cherryh proves herself a consistently thoughtful and entertaining writer.

Time Is the Simplest Thing

Clifford D. Simak

A telepath inadvertently acquires a powerful alien consciousness and must run for his life to escape corporate assassins and hate-filled mobs in this enthralling science fiction masterwork

Space travel has been abandoned in the twenty-second century. It is deemed too dangerous, expensive, and inconvenient--and now the all-powerful Fishhook company holds the monopoly on interstellar exploration for commercial gain. Their secret is the use of "parries," human beings with the remarkable telepathic ability to expand their minds throughout the universe. On what should have been a routine assignment, however, loyal Fishhook employee Shepherd Blaine is inadvertently implanted with a copy of an alien consciousness, becoming something more than human. Now he's a company pariah, forced to flee the safe confines of the Fishhook complex. But the world he escapes into is not a safe sanctuary; Its people have been taught to hate and fear his parapsychological gift--and there is nowhere on Earth, or elsewhere, for Shepherd Blaine to hide.

A Hugo Award nominee, Time Is the Simplest Thing showcases the enormous talents of one of the true greats of twentieth-century science fiction. This richly imagined tale of prejudice, corporate greed, oppression, and, ultimately, transcendence stands tall among Simak's most enduring works.

Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest

Galaxy Science Fiction: Book 8

Olaf Stapledon

John Wainwright is a freak, a human mutation with an extraordinary intelligence which is both awesome and frightening to behold. Ordinary humans are mere playthings to him. And Odd John has a plan - to create a new order on Earth, a new supernormal species. But the world is not ready for such a change.

Tor Double #9: The Ugly Little Boy / The [Widget], The [Wadget]

Tor Double: Book 9

Isaac Asimov
Theodore Sturgeon

The Ugly Little Boy:

A small Neanderthal boy is brought into the future for scientific experimentation. The nurse who takes care of him, starts to see him as something other than a experimental subject.

The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff:

Only Robin could really see the Aliens...

Rogue Moon

Algis Budrys

During all recorded history, the Moon has hovered above our heads, a timeless symbol for lovers' ecstasy. Goddesses and Gibson Girls have tripped the light fantastic of her beams while sonneteers and scientists have scanned her changing phases.

Now man had actually reached the Moon, and on it the explorers found a structure, a formation so terrible and incomprehensible that it couldn't even be described in human terms. It was a thing that devoured men; that killed them again and again in torturous, unfathomable ways.

Earthbound are the only two men who could probe the thing: Al Barker, a homicidal maniac, whose loving mistress was death, and Dr. Edward Hawks, a scientific murderer, whose greatest mission was rebirth.

Lagoon

Nnedi Okorafor

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria's most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself... from itself. Lagoon expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

At its heart a story about humanity at the crossroads between the past, present, and future, Lagoon touches on political and philosophical issues in the rich tradition of the very best science fiction, and ultimately asks us to consider the things that bind us together--and the things that make us human.

There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.

World of Ptavvs

Known Space: Book 1

Larry Niven

A reflective statue is found at the bottom of one of Earth's oceans, having lain there for 1.5 billion years. Since humans have recently developed a time slowing field and found that one such field cannot function within another, it is suspected that the "Sea Statue" is actually a space traveler within one of these time fields. Larry Greenberg, a telepath, agrees to participate in an experiment: a time-slowing field is generated around both Greenberg and the statue, shutting off the stasis field and revealing Kzanol. Kzanol is a living Thrint a member of a telepathic race that once ruled the galaxy through mind control.

In the Ocean of Night

The Galactic Center Series: Book 1

Gregory Benford

Set in a world of lunar colonies, cybernetic miracles, fanatic cults, deadly pollution and famine, the first story in the Galactic Center Series. This world of social decay is facing hardship, but not far beyond the shores of space comes a mystery, which one man, astronaut Nigel Walmsley is about to touch.

The Whole Man

John Brunner

Gerald Howson was born in the gutter, with the body of a cripple... he was raised in harsh poverty and ridicule... and he would grow up with a mind of transcendant power.... What kind of man would he be?

A daring and fascinating exploration into the possibilities that include the marvel of internal creation---or the threat of lingering death!

Published in the UK as: The Telepathist

No Enemy But Time

Michael Bishop

Joshua Kampa, the illegitimate son of a mute Spanish whore and a black serviceman, has always dreamed of Africa. But his dreams are of an Africa far in the past and are so vivid and in such hallucinatory detail that he is able to question the understanding of eminent palaeontologists. As a result, Joshua is invited to join a most unusual time travel project and is transported millions of years into the past of his dreams.

In early Pleistocene Africa, living among the prehuman species Homo habilis, experiencing the same hardships and the same intense pleasures, Joshua finds, for the first time in his troubled life, not only contentment but real love - a love that transcends almost everything. Intelligent, thoughtful and deeply moving, No Enemy But Time brilliantly evokes the remote past and, at the same time, presents a powerful and convincing portrayal of a relationship surmounting even the most daunting barriers. It is a challenging and highly original novel exploring the nature and origins of humankind.

3001: The Final Odyssey

Space Odyssey: Book 4

Arthur C. Clarke

One thousand years after the Jupiter mission to explore the mysterious Monolith had been destroyed, after Dave Bowman was transformed into the Star Child, Frank Poole drifted in space, frozen and forgotten, leaving the supercomputer HAL inoperable. But now Poole has returned to life, awakening in a world far different from the one he left behind--and just as the Monolith may be stirring once again . . .

Macroscope

Piers Anthony

Throughout history, man has been searching for better ways to gather information about his universe. But although they may have longed for it, not even the most brilliant minds could conceive of a device as infinitely powerful or as immeasurably precise as the macroscope, until the twenty-first century. By analyzing information carried on macrons, this unbelievable tool brought the whole universe of wonders to man's doorstep. The macroscope was seen by many as the salvation of the human race.

But in the hands of the wrong man, the macroscope could be immensely destructive-infinitely more dangerous than the nuclear bomb. By searching to know too much, man could destroy the very essence of his mind. This is the powerful story of man's struggle with technology, and also the story of his human struggle with himself. This novel takes us across the breathtaking ranges of space as well as through the most touching places in the human heart. It is a story of coming of age, of sacrifice, and of love. It is the story of man's desperate search for a compromise between his mind and his heart, between knowledge and humanity.

The City in the Middle of the Night

Charlie Jane Anders

If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams... And from there, it's easy to control our entire lives.

January is a dying planet--divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk.

But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.

But fate has other plans--and Sophie's ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

The Tommyknockers

Stephen King

...Tommyknockers, tommyknockers, knocking at the door.

Something was happening in Bobbi Anderson's idyllic small town of Haven, Maine. Something that gave every man, woman, and child in town powers far beyond ordinary mortals. Something that turned the town into a death trap for all outsiders. Something that came from a metal object, buried for millennia, that Bobbi stumbled across.

It wasn't that Bobbi and the other good folks of Haven had sold their souls to reap the rewards of the most deadly evil this side of hell. It was more like a diabolical takeover... and invasion of body and soul--and mind.

The Galaxy Game

The Best of All Possible Worlds: Book 2

Karen Lord

Karen Lord is one of today's most brilliant young talents. Her science fiction, like that of predecessors Ursula K. Le Guin and China Miéville, combines star-spanning plots, deeply felt characters, and incisive social commentary. With The Galaxy Game, Lord presents a gripping adventure that showcases her dazzling imagination as never before.

On the verge of adulthood, Rafi attends the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Rafi possesses mental abilities that might benefit people... or control them. Some wish to help Rafi wield his powers responsibly; others see him as a threat to be contained. Rafi's only freedom at the Lyceum is Wallrunning: a game of speed and agility played on vast vertical surfaces riddled with variable gravity fields.

Serendipity and Ntenman are also students at the Lyceum, but unlike Rafi they come from communities where such abilities are valued. Serendipity finds the Lyceum as much a prison as a school, and she yearns for a meaningful life beyond its gates. Ntenman, with his quick tongue, quicker mind, and a willingness to bend if not break the rules, has no problem fitting in. But he too has his reasons for wanting to escape.

Now the three friends are about to experience a moment of violent change as seething tensions between rival star-faring civilizations come to a head. For Serendipity, it will challenge her ideas of community and self. For Ntenman, it will open new opportunities and new dangers. And for Rafi, given a chance to train with some of the best Wallrunners in the galaxy, it will lead to the discovery that there is more to Wallrunning than he ever suspected... and more to himself than he ever dreamed.