Xenofiction books tell stories from the perspective of non-human characters. In the sci-fi world, that usually means aliens, but there are plenty of books that also tell fascinating stories from the perspective of animals.
Xenofiction gives readers an opportunity to examine stories that can be all too human from a non-human point of view. From tales of a dystopian beehive to bug-like aliens making first contact, here are eight xenofiction books to give you a new perspective.
An alien visitor arrives on Earth with a simple mission: erase all evidence of a breakthrough mathematical discovery before mankind learns about it—and that includes disposing of any humans who already know.
In order to accomplish his task, the visitor takes the form of Andrew Martin, the Cambridge University professor who made the discovery. The visitor is eager to complete his mission and return to his home planet as quickly as possible, as he hates being surrounded by humans.
But as he spends more time as Andrew, the visitor learns about humanity. He comes to appreciate their capacity for emotion, no matter how flawed that makes them as a species, and is forced to question if he actually can carry out his mission.
Nor Crystal Tears
The Thranx are a species of insect-like aliens from the planet Willow-Wane. Ryo has lived a completely normal Thranx life, settling into a career as an agriculturalist and finding a nice female to premate with.
Still, he has always had an uncontrollable curiosity about the world around him and yearns for more excitement in his life. Then everything changes when he learns about a mysterious interstellar message that a Thranx starship received.
Convinced that a new alien species has arrived somewhere nearby, Ryo sets out to discover them. Accompanied by a famous Thranx poet, he leaves his planet, ignoring warnings that these aliens are a murderous and violent species.
When Ryo finally comes across these bizarre fleshy creatures who call themselves “humans”, he realizes that they may just be the Thranx’s only hope against a powerful evil empire.
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The hierarchy of Flora 717’s hive has been set in stone for generations. She was born into the lowest caste, destined to be a sanitation worker for the rest of her life.
But Flora has an innate curiosity about the world that sets her apart from her fellow bees, and while that kind of abnormality would usually be violently stamped out, trouble in the hive means that she is allowed to explore life outside of her caste. Flora takes on several jobs until she eventually is allowed access to the private chamber of the beloved and worshiped Queen.
As Flora discovers new truths about the hive, she makes a dangerous misstep and questions the Queen’s fertility.
Suddenly the entire power structure of the hive has turned against Flora, and she will have to fight to protect herself and the future of the hive.
The Crucible of Time
Told over the course of thousands of years, The Crucible of Time follows a civilization of jellyfish-like aliens as they grapple with their planet becoming increasingly uninhabitable.
As the sun gets hotter, natural disasters continue to strike, species die off, and food sources mutate to become poisonous.
Eventually, it becomes clear to the alien scientists that they have no other option but to take to the stars and abandon their home if they want their species to survive.
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One of the most beloved books of all time, Watership Down follows a group of rabbits as they struggle to survive.
After living peacefully for generations in rural Southern England, the rabbits find their home threatened by the encroachment of humans. As their habitat is destroyed, two brothers lead the group on a journey towards a fabled promised land, but the migration will not be an easy one.
First published almost 50 years ago, Watership Down has been adapted for the screen several times, most recently as a miniseries on Netflix.
The Call of the Wild
Drawing from author Jack London’s experiences in the Yukon, The Call of the Wild tells the story of Buck, a dog living during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush.
Buck begins his story living on a ranch in California’s Santa Clara Valley. One day, Buck gets stolen and taken to Alaska, where sled dogs are in high demand as people venture out in search of gold. In the harsh world of the Yukon, Buck is forced to deal with irresponsible owners and the other dogs whom he fights for dominance.
Eventually, Buck escapes and reverts to a wild state. Relying on his ancestral instincts, he emerges as a leader and thrives in the wild. When he meets and forms a bond with John Thornton, a prospector and experienced outdoorsman, Buck will have to choose between his new life in the wild and one alongside a human.
This is the award-winning second book in David Brin's Uplift series, which centers around species that have been 'uplifted' into sentience.
Although there are xenofiction elements throughout the series, Startide Rising—which follows the spaceship Streaker and its crew of primates, dolphins, and humans—has the most prominent use of the trope.
When the Streaker finds an abandoned flotilla, the crew become caught in the crosshairs of an intergalactic controversy.
Black Beauty is the story of the titular horse. He recounts his life from his early days with his mother on an English farm, through his life until he retires in the country. He spends his youth on Squire Gordon’s farm, only to be sold when the Squire has to go abroad. Black Beauty is then passed from one owner to the next, and he soon discovers that most humans are not as kind as his first owner.
Author Anna Sewell spent most of her life around horses and wrote Black Beauty in 1877 as a plea to other members of English society to treat the animals with more care and respect.
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