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)
My favorite book, written by one of my favorite people (Carl Sagan).
I am writing this review to mainly focus on the major differences between the movie and the book.The book follows the same basic plot as the movie, but with a few exceptions (SPOILER ALERT):
- Ellie's mother is not dead, as in the movie. While Ellie's father passes away, her mother is around throughout her childhood and her adult life.
- Ellie and her stepfather (also not present in the movie) have a strained and reoccurring relationship throughout the book.
- Ellie's childhood, teenage years, and early graduate and internship years are described in a more detail.
- The President of USA has a more prominent, reoccurring role, and is female.
- Ellie has many romantic relationships (i.e., sexual relationships with a lab assistant early in her career, and then with Kent the Russian Scientist later in her career; and sexual tension with Drummond and then to an even greater degree with Vagay), albeit not with Palmer Joss who is the one individual she does have a romantic relationship with in the movie.
- Three machines, not two, are constructed (i.e., in the USA, Japan, and Russia). This was interesting because by the time the story concludes only two machines have been used (or should I say, one has been destroyed and one has been used and possibly is not able to be used again), with the machine in Russia still unused.
- Ellie is not the only individual who makes the trips; several delegates make the trip with her and have their own unique experiences.
- The conversation Ellie has with the alien is much, much more detailed and extensive, and for me was a real highlight of the story.
- Following her voyage in the machine, Ellie learns something interesting about the number for "pi" (i.e., 3.14...) that provides an interesting twist at the conclusion of the story.
In summary, excellent book, and not only because of the writing but due to the narrator's great performance as well. Lefkow did an outstanding job as a true Voice Actor. Most of the supporting characters are male and the narrator (female) did a superb job rising to the challenge of voice acting each male character without sounding odd or goofy.
I really liked the movie and liked the book even more. The story was very fast paced, maybe even a little too fast with the jumps in time being somewhat agitating. However, the main characters were well drawn but the minor characters somewhat cartoonish. Ellie was the main character and the driving force behind the book. The character of Haddon was also really fascinating. I really learned a lot about astronomy although in parts it was a little above my head. Still, the book made a plausible case for extra terrestrial beings and Sagen's spin on how we were on the brink of destruction rang true. The only part of the book and the movie that I didn't buy was the conspiracy ending. It made no logical sense and the world's governments all rejecting the stories of these five brilliant people was ridiculous. I am still not sure why Sagen ended it this way. I guess he ran into the same problem all science fiction writers run into: how to plot a satisfying believable ending. The reader was really great and I will look for other books she's read.
As good as the movie was, this book is orders of magnitude better. I had struggled with whether to choose the abridged, with Ms. Foster, or the unabridged. I am glad I chose the unabridged. As fan of science, I enjoyed hearing Dr. Sagan’s perspective on science and religion and I suspect those passages were what got chopped in the abridged. Those plus there were times when the plot wandered about. So if you’d rather focus on the main plot line, the abridged might be a better choice.
Laurel Lefkow’s narration was excellent. Only one of the accents annoyed me, the New York street accent. But honestly, that’s not her fault – she was true to the description of the accent given in the book.
Whichever version you chose, you will not be unhappy. It’s a great audiobook, well worth the listen.
This recording has technical issues with it that I noticed after awhile. The recording skips at several instances, for example go to Chapter 11 and at 4:22 the recording skips some of the story. I have verified that it is indeed skipping by looking at the ebook on Google:
Hopefully this will be fixed and re-digitized soon.
Incredibly thought-provoking story. Intelligently written without a hint of pretension. Many parts of the story serve as a backdrop for rational discussion regarding the beliefs and faith of scientists and religious practitioners.
Conversations between Dr. Eroway and Palmer Joss.
Well-paced. Bad accents. Perfect for Dr. Eroway's voice
A couple laugh-out-loud and "aha!" moments.
Audiobook, read by Laurel Lefkow, 14 plus hours of listening. If you are interested in reading a book that reflects the well known movie starring Jodie Foster, this won’t work for you. The characters are there, i.e., Ellie Arroway, Parker Joss, David Drumlin, but the rolls are entirely different. Bill Clinton is not the president. In fact, the United States president is a woman. David Drumlin dies in an attack on one of the machines, but he saves Ellie’s life in the process. There are several machines, not only two. She does not have an affair with Parker Joss. The story is much more political in flavor and there is a considerable unloading of Sagan’s mind regarding these issues in addition to religion and faith. The actual science of the Vega communique is definitely the catalyst of the story, but it is heavily surrounded by the political and religious ramifications of the event. The version presented by hollywood does not have the depth of the written story, no surprise there … but, the book created by Carl Sagan is an entirely different message than that of the screenplay, which he did not write. Carl Sagan died before the movie was produced; it would have been better had he lived.
Lefkow does a great job in narration, nice listen.
Roughly the last hour is a detriment to an otherwise fantastic and forward thinking book. Sagan's ability to tap into critiques of science academia's views on gender-roles pertaining to the lead character to large scope astrophysics in a cohesive manner is impressive. Sagan, obviously comfortable as an author, fiction or non-fiction, lost me at the end with a little too thick of pan-humanist religious idealism.It felt like pandering to the religious majority. While the book certainly takes Sagan's fantasy of what clearly is his ultimate dream, and explored, the ending lasted perhaps a few chapters too long, and found me wishing for it to stop as humanity magically holds all the cards (or fingers) to unlocking the secrets of the universe meant specific for us. Very much worth a listen, even if the regrettable ending.
No, Laurel Lefkow's performance is slightly annoying. I may read it again, though.
Ellie is awesome.
Worth a listen / read.
I like the "Contact" movie, and I originally read the book first. Reading the book add some different dimensions to the story. Its too bad Carl Sagan isn't around to update his story, I'm sure he'd have some interesting things to say. I liked the movie for its special effects, and Jodie Foster. The original story by Sagan has that interesting ending..suppose you to were able to graph out the numbers to PI.....do you suppose the numbers might form a circle?
Making science popular for at least two generations of people, Carl Sagan's Contact goes a long way in doing just that: making science comprehensible in the form of this novel. Dr. Eleanor Arroway is an accessible, likable character and Laurel Lefkow performs her beautifully. Theists, atheists, and agnostics, and even the scientifically illiterate can all equally enjoy this book.
If you've ever been even slightly interested in SETI-the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, or in astronomy, please read or listen to Contact, but don't expect it to be like the movie.
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