The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
After their planet is destroyed, an alien race looks for help from humans and other races in the universe while struggling to keep their culture alive. A smart, moving novel that features alien species that will remind one of the Vulcans and Betans from Star Trek, but with their own twist. Fans of Ursula K. Le Guin and TNG will savor Lord’s book and her skill with characterization.
A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson
Ia has visions of the future that give her insights no one should have and to keep her horrific visions from becoming true she enlists in the Terran United Planets military in the hopes of changing the future and saving all sentient life. This is military science fiction for people who don’t like military science fiction. An absolutely mesmerizing protagonist and a plot that has you flipping the pages faster than you thought possible.
Pride of Chanur by CJ Cherryh
When the hani crew of the spaceship The Pride of Chanur take in a strange alien known as a “human” they spark an intergalactic conflict that threatens the fragile peace of the Compact. At turns funny, thrilling and full of enough political maneuvering that would make the folks of A Game of Thrones throw up their hands, this series is Cherryh at her best. The well-drawn characters and world-building make this an excellent ride for those who enjoy the action-oriented incarnations of Star Trek.
Startide Rising by David Brin
In a universe where intelligent species only reach sentience through the intervention of another species, thus “uplifting” them, the human and dolphin crew of the Streaker hold the secret to the first sentient species, but sharing the secret may prove to be deadly. A classic of the genre, Brin’s books are bursting with intelligence and innovative ideas that can either prove transcendent or give you a headache if you think about them for too long. The clash of far-reaching extrapolation and unique characterization meshes perfectly with wild setting.