I have been trying to recall the title of a book I read about 25 years ago (1987), I have tried to find it again a couple of times over the years without any luck.

The story takes place on earth, which has been invaded and conquered by aliens. The humans have become servants or slaves. One of the primary human characters is the human servant of an alien leader.

If I remember correctly, the aliens are much bigger than humans, I keep thinking of horses or elephants for some reason with regard to the aliens. At the end, somehow the human slaves have forced the aliens to abandon their conquest of earth, but I don't remember exactly why.

I think it was something to do with simply refusing to be obedient, which the aliens could not comprehend, but I'm not sure about that. I think the book ends with the alien leader (and the rest of the aliens) blasting off from earth in a rocket.

Does anyone recognize what book I'm referring to?

Thanks for any help!

  • Almost certainly 'Footfall' as mentioned below. The elephant association clinches it IMHO.
    – M.E.L.
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 21:10

4 Answers 4


Way of the Pilgrim (1987) by Gordon R Dickson....maybe

Shane, a gifted linguist, has spent his life learning the language of the old and powerful alien race that has conquered Earth. He has learned it so well that the interstellar masters, old hands at enslaving planets, regard him as a valuable servant. But Shane has a secret. One day, in a rebellious moment, he invented The Pilgrim: a mysterious figure who incites rebellion and vanishes unseen, leaving a distinctive icon behind him. Now the human underground is preparing to rebel. Shane knows how hopeless their rebellion will be. He knows, as well, that he will be unable to keep himself from taking part.

Its been a long time since I read this one but if my memory is right I believe the aliens are much larger than humans and see humans as inferior and at the end of the book the aliens leave Earth as the humans are too belligerent to be "helped". Below is a link to a short review I found online, it doesnt give away much but it may help you decide if this is the book your after.

  • That's it! I've been trying to figure that out (off and on, Google searches, blindly going through Amazon's sci-fi listings, top Sci-Fi book lists, etc.) for years now. When I checked Amazon's description just now I remembered the aliens were called "Aalaag" and all of the rest fits with my recollection. Thank you!
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 19:15

Sounds like it could Footfall, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, first published in 1985 and reprinted many times. Earth is invaded by the Fithp, aliens who look like baby elephants with multiple trunks. Their society is organized as a series of ever-larger herds.

When the Fithp fight, the losers show submission to the winners (IIRC, they literally roll over on their backs), and are then incorporated into the winners' herd. They expect earthlings to capitulate to their show of force, but the pesky humans won't stay down, which the aliens find incomprehensible.

The Fithp are ultimately defeated, of course. First those pesky humans launch a massive nuclear attack on their beachhead (which the Fithp see as fouling the nest -- very bad!). Then the humans attack the alien mothership with an Orion spacecraft, which is powered by nuclear bombs (Orion was a real proposal, but it was cancelled after the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.). Finally, the Fithp surrender and become part of our "herd".

  • Thank you for the comments on this too, I think I read this one also and I may have combined elements from both books my accident. I will look this one up and hopefully find time to read it (again). Thank you very much for your help, Scott
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 19:17

The White Mountain Trilogy by John Christopher deals with that theme. Very old school.


Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard

"Nonstop and fast-paced. Every paragraph has a big bang-up adventure." —Kevin J. Anderson Suspense, thrills, action and adventure. Earth has been dominated for 1,000 years by an alien invader—and man is an endangered species. From the handful of surviving humans a courageous leader emerges—Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, who challenges the invincible might of the alien Psychlo empire..

  • I hope Kevin J Anderson's books are written with better judgement than this blurb.
    – davidbak
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 22:25
  • 1
    @davidbak That blurb is entirely accurate. The book is fantastic.
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 0:28
  • In 1998, Random House readers voted Battlefield Earth as the 3rd best novel ever written, beating out Lord of the Rings. modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels
    – DCShannon
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 0:36
  • 2
    @DCShannon I'm convinced! I'm sure there's no way a poll like that could be gamed. No way at all.
    – davidbak
    Commented May 10, 2016 at 0:48
  • 1
    @DCShannon - Actually, I have read the book, and found it quite enjoyable. That said, it's clearly not such a great book that it really ought to be winning such high praise, and the existence of such a large group of people with the ulterior motive of gaming such a poll makes me very highly suspicious of any results like this. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 15:03

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