Explorers
All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct


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The Voyage of the Space Beagle
by A.E. van Vogt (1950)


A 'fix-up' of some of van Vogt's early short fiction, this may surprise modern readers with its complexity and unusual narrative style. The saga of the Space Beagle, mankind's first effort to reach another galaxy, is fraught with the strange - and usually hostile - life-forms that are encountered. Meanwhile, the all-male chemically castrated crew learn a few things.





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Solaris
by Stanislaw Lem (1961)


The central character in Solaris is a sentient ocean that humans find impossible to communicate with, and seemingly creates repressed and newly corporeal memories in those who study it. The ocean's purpose in doing so is unknown, forcing the scientists to shift the focus of their quest and wonder if they can truly understand the universe without first understanding what lies within their hearts.





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Tau Zero
by Poul Anderson (1970)


The spaceship Leonora Christine is designed to travel close to the speed of light, thereby radically slowing the aging of its crew. The ship passes through an uncharted cloudlike nebula and it continues to accelerate, allowing eons to pass by in the process. The novel combines an interest in the emotional lives of its characters, and a fascination with all things technological and scientific.





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Ringworld [S1]
by Larry Niven (1970)


The artefact is a circular ribbon of matter six hundred million miles long and ninety million miles in radius. Pierson's puppeteers, the aliens who discovered it, are understandably wary of encountering the builders of such an immense structure and have assembled a team to explore it. But a crash landing on the vast edifice forces the crew on a desperate and dangerous trek across the Ringworld.





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Contact
by Carl Sagan (1985)


At first it seemed impossible... a radio signal that came from far beyond the nearest stars. But then the signal was translated, and what had been impossible became terrifying. The signal contains the information to build a Machine that can travel to the stars and can take a human to meet those that sent the message. They have been watching and waiting for a long time. Sagan popularised astronomy through an entertaining series of TV documentaries in the early-80s.





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The Reality Dysfunction [S1]
by Peter F. Hamilton (1996)


In AD 2600 the human race has explored and colonised hundreds of planets scattered across the galaxy. They host a multitude of prosperous and wildly diverse cultures. On a primitive colony planet a renegade criminal's chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes the most primal of all our fears. It is the nightmare which has prowled beside us since the beginning of history.





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Annihilation [S1]
by Jeff VanderMeer (2014)


Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilisation. The first expedition returned with reports of a lush pristine landscape. Expeditions after that all ended in disaster. The twelfth expedition set out hoping to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. But its members are keeping secrets from one another that change everything.





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Children of Time [S1]
by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2015)


The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age - a world terraformed and prepared for human life. But the planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind's worst nightmare.


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