If you've avoided sci-fi because you aren't interested in reading thousands of pages of tiny print in multiple-novel series about emotionless humanoids garbed in skintight spacesuits, well, check out The High Crusade. My copy was only 192 pages of good-sized print, complete with blank pages in between chapters. The book has the warm feel of historical fiction, the sort that actually tries to represent the time period rather than to infuse modern sensibilities into an intriguing setting.
The year in which the story begins is 1345, the place is medieval England. The town of Ansby is bustling with those preparing to join King Edward III at war with France. Brother Parvus, a kindhearted and pious Franciscan, tells of the appearance of a spaceship full of aliens searching for a planet to conquer and colonize.
So technologically superior as to be entirely unfamiliar with medieval warfare, the aliens are caught completely off guard at first. But the first battle is just the beginning. Can one humble town survive against advanced and aggressive world-conquerors?
Fast paced and yet engagingly written, The High Crusade represents characters so faithfully I could easily imagine them to be real despite the antiquated assumptions, explanations, and actions they chose (and chose well). The tone is sensitive, displaying human traits of both strength and treachery with sympathy (and a touch of humor), without resorting to caricature (even more remarkable considering its brevity).
So even if you don't generally care for the genre, check out the High Crusade if you have the chance. I turned the last page and closed the book with that rare utter satisfaction at having read a thoroughly enjoyable book.... even if it *was* sci-fi with aliens. ;)