One of the library challenges is to read a book with nonhuman characters. So, when I was planning the sequence of posting stuff related to the challenge, I decided to schedule that one to coincide as closely as possible to World UFO Day–which was this past Saturday. (Yes, it’s a thing.) Of course, that naturally lends itself to discussions of books with aliens in it, but I wanted a broader focus for this post. Therefore, below you’ll find a wide range of books with nonhuman characters, ranging from aliens to fantasy creatures to animals. As always, remember to check out our online catalog if you want to learn more about any of the featured books.
If you want to read about aliens:
Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three (2011)
If you’re in an extraterrestrial mood, consider Greg Bear’s Hull Zero Three. It’s set aboard a space ship full of settlers who are supposed to awaken from a deep sleep state shortly before arrival at their new planet. However, when the small group of survivors wake up, they find themselves contending with a horde of monsters and unsure of what is going on. This book, which blends science fiction, horror, and suspense, got a lot of great reviews when it was initially released for its fast-paced but thought-provoking plot.
Recommended for those who enjoy Gregory Benford, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Michael Crichton.
If you want to read about vampires:
Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgling (2005)
I remember several years ago when vampires were a big trend in books/television/movies and our library circulated a lot of vampire-themed novels that slanted more toward the romance side of things than horror. If you enjoy a good vampire book but are less enamored with paranormal romances, give Fledgling a chance. It tells the story of a young woman who learns that she is actually a fifty-something vampire hybrid whose family was murdered. She must discover who killed her family and is still after her and what they want, not only to save herself but also other vampires. This book garnered a lot of attention for its engaging plot that also conveys a lot of social commentary in its depiction of vampires.
Recommended for those who enjoy Scott Westerfield, Sheri S. Tepper, Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, and George Orwell.
If you want to read about werewolves:
Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver (2009)
Perhaps you read the previous description and thought, “But I like paranormal romances!” In that case, if you enjoy the genre and also want to read about werewolves, give Maggie Stiefvater’s young adult paranormal romance Shiver a try. A short synopsis: Boy meets girl. Boy happens to be a werewolf. Complications ensue. Although that may sound derivative of a lot of other stories in this genre, Stiefvater’s book has been praised for her own unique take on longstanding tropes. In addition, if you enjoy the book, you also have the sequels to look forward to!
Recommended for those who enjoy Andrea R. Cremer, Francesca Lia Block, Brenna Yovanoff, and Tessa Gratton.
If you want to read about animals:
Laline Paull’s The Bees (2015)
Laline Paull’s book The Bees is a dystopian science fiction tale about a youthful protagonist, Flora, who eventually comes to question the rigid social hierarchies in the world she lives in. The twist? Flora is a bee and the society she is rebelling against is her beehive. Paull received a lot of acclaim not only for the quality of her dystopian novel but also for her imaginative exploration of a bee’s life.
Recommended for those who enjoy Mira Grant’s Chimera and Richard Adams’ Watership Down.
If you want to read about more unusual nonhuman characters:
Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona (2015)
Do you like young adult fantasy? Do you like graphic novels? Do you like shapeshifters? If you answered yes to any of those questions, try Nimona! In an inversion of the formula most people think of in regard to fantasy stories, Nimona focuses on a prototypical fantasy villain, Lord Blackheart, and his sidekick Nimona, the aforementioned shapeshifter, and their quest to prove that the local hero maybe isn’t all he’s cracked up to be.
Recommended for those who enjoy Stevenson’s other book Lumberjanes, Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga series, and Kurtis J. Wiebe’s Rat Queen series.
Marie Phillips’ Gods Behaving Badly (2007)
If you like fantasy but aren’t in the mood for more traditional fantasy–even if it involves playing with those tropes like Nimona does–try Gods Behaving Badly. Remember the Greek gods you learned about when you studied mythology? Now imagine them in modern-day London. How do you think they’d behave? If you immediately thought, “Horribly!” then you already understand the premise behind Marie Phillips’ comic fantasy, which focuses on what happens when twelve really bored ancient deities amuse themselves in contemporary times and two normal people get caught in the middle of their antics.
Recommended for those who enjoy Kate MacAlister’s Ain’t Myth-Behaving.
Have you read any of these books? What are your favorite books that feature nonhuman characters? Tell us in the comments!