The future is here...in an adventure of cosmic dimension. In December, 1999, a multinational team journeys out to the stars, to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who - or what - is out there? In Cosmos, Carl Sagan explained the universe. In Contact, he predicts its future - and our own.
©1997 Carl Sagan (P)1997 Simon & Schuster
"Contact deals with issues...worth pondering.The range and depth of ideas is quite uncommon." (New York Times Book Review)
"Like a good mystery, Contact keeps us curious to the end...ingenious and satisfying." (Newsweek)
While the plot is similar to the movie, the book has interesting twist that were left out of the movie. I think the book version is much better. The narrator is great.
This was very enjoyable and well written and well performed. I listen to a whole lot of audio books and am at Master level. Contact is an audio book I will recommend to my close friends that I want to become serious audio listeners.
This book is a sci-fi great, a must read. parts of it are unnecessary and droning, but it is an amazing book, with a fascinating story that shows that no matter who we are or what we do, we are all intrinsically linked by the mathematical language of the universe.
Pure brain candy
Written from the perspective of a female scientist, Laurel gives the character life without diminishing from the primarily testosterone driven environment.
I have an hour and a half commute to and from work. Sitting in Houston traffic was not just made bearable but enjoyable. I actually looked forward to my "me" time while surrounded by rush hour traffic.
Carl Sagan was not a writer, but an astrophysicist. His ability to draw you into a world that is far deeper than many of us can negotiate without leaving you feeling overwhelmed is remarkable.
The story of contact with an alien civilization had very little to do with "little green men" and more to do with the reality of how the human race would react to a message from the stars.
I was completely enthralled.
So I was debating rather to go back and watch the movie adaption of this, prior to the review so I could have something to compare it to, but I decided against it, as I just want to review the book in it's essence. Besides...I don't have the fondest memories of that movie anyway. So to give the 10,000 foot view, the book Contact varies pretty heavily from the movie from what I remember. The book, to be is a far more apparent and less subtle commentary on the division between religion, and faith, and science and facts. Sagan does a wonderful job in portraying both sides as fundamentally rooted in their beliefs and presents them in a non-fanatical way. (Though the character of Joss is a bit stereotypical.)
Our main heroine, Elle is introduced to us, as a young girl, who has an insatiable desire to learn, find out how things work, and what they're made of. In my field we'd call her a hacker, or maker. Back then though, she was just looked at as annoyingly curious and besides her dad, her passion for tinkering and learning wasn't fostered. Her father, we get the sense was very hands on with her, and was the one who fed her brain so to speak. Unfortunately early in her life, he passes and her mom remarries. This creates a sensible divide between her and her mother that comes into play later in the story. And she has absolutely no love for the man, John Staunton, who is now her step father. Anyway she goes on to bigger things, and I genuinely feel happy for her as she stumbles upon her discovery. It's described in a way that she at first scientifically goes though all of the logical possibilities, even if they'd make her look bad. One particular moment, when she realizes that this may be a real contact from the Vega system, she calmly goes to her office, closes the door behind her, and whispers "holy...shit" to her self.. Small stuff like that help make Ellie someone I can definitely relate to. I also enjoy her fiesty, and defensive personality. If she disagrees with your point of view, it doesn't seem like she'll shy away from sharing her own point of view. She constantly goes head to head with the man who actually bestows her Docorate, David Drumlin. Ballsy!
What struck me as interesting is that in the book, once humanity has more or less found out the design of the machine schematics, the result is a machine that allows for 5 simultaneous passengers. In the movie it was a solo journey for only Ellie her self. I'm actually not quite sure which I prefer. I actually like the idea that Ellie must take this scientific yet spiritual journey by herself. In the book she's given some support and it seems to take away from the potential to show her as a strong independent character. Of course this is a tiny flaw, as Ellie's character is given much in the way of independence. She's not really emotionally tied to any man. While she grows fond of the President's Science advisor, Ken, it's implied and even said straight up that she doesn't and hasn't put much stock in relationships, and focuses on herself (good for her!)
Another fun bit of surprise is that Carl Sagan, bemurely, and casually makes the President of the United States a woman! I was very pleasantly surprised. The book is set in 1999, maybe some mistimed foreshadowing?? xD The president comes off as a very business first woman, and her "first husband" seems to be one that is a "yes man". I really enjoyed that bit.
Snuck into the story is the relationship between Ellie and her mother. You tell that after her mother's remarrying, they've had a sort of strained relationship. She briefly talks to her mother on the phone, but once the signal is receieved, Ellie puts off talking her to her again. She makes the claim that she's busy, but it seems no real effort is made. She of course comes to regret this as her mother's health fails and begins a quick decline. A sad decision as she never really again has a chance to talk with her consciously. Ellie is presented this as a challenge to whatever little faith in religion she has. I half expected Sagan to use this as a way to get Ellie to have a more positive view of religion. Which sort of happens, as well as her encounter on the "Beach" later on...
Anyway book also briefly tackles the politicial landscape and sentiments at the time of it's scripting. US and Russia tensions are still a bit tense, and there's a sort of race to get the machine built between the two. USA wins of course. ('murica!) From the moment the 5 members "leave" earth..we're given a very surreal and trippy journey into the center of the galaxy. Eventually all 5, through a series of wormholes, end up on a landscape that resembles a beach. What's sort of neat about this idea is that up until now, we've assumed the beings who contacted them were obviously the beings that built the machine initially, and built the worm hole tunnel networks etc.. But they're just inheritors as well. They came along after the universe was "put into motion" as well. In writing it this way, Carl Sagan still gives the idea that something greater than what we can see and interact with, may still be out there. Masterfully done really. If the creators were the ones that Ellie and the other 4 had met, it would put them in the position of being Gods and the mystery would be over. The fact that the beings that the five met were just more advanced alien race means that they are not God-like, but something grander was either still out there, or had left. So the science of the wormholes, the galaxy and what not, still hold true, but the answer to the great cosmic question is still unanswered.
Of course the ending is the coolest, what seemed like nearly a full day of travel from the perspective of the crew, was only a few seconds from the perspective of all the on lookers. Coming full circle, one of the few that believe their story is Joss, the fundamentalist bible thumper! He recognizes Ellie's "faith" as a sort of branched off faith not too unlike his own..
Writer of The Majick Series
the movie always seemed thin. this book is much richer. enjoyed it very much and the reader was amazing.
Well done. Such an amazing story deserves a great voiceover performance and that was certainly delivered. I hope generations to come will enjoy this magnificent work by renowned physicist Carl Sagan.
I like to listen to a broad variety genres but I've become a huge Sci-Fi fan.
The balance of character building and scientific explanation was perfect.
The religious thread throughout the book was at first off-putting until I realized that most new scientific developments are often met with push back from the "Holy Community."
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