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.
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.
I have not read the print version, but the audio version is well read. I very much enjoyed listening to this narrator.
Hard to decide; I really like most everything about the story. If I had to say, and to avoid spoilers, I'd say when she was looking up to the sky. You'll know what you get to the part.
I have not, but was considering doing so. However, currently, I don't have any interest in her ither reads.
I would've if I could've. Was done in 3.
Awesome story. Awesomely written. Awesome narration.
Not very subtle and quite naive for my modern taste, but I really enjoyed it. It does turns into a lecture from time to time, but still never bores you or goes over your head.
I note that some reviewers did not like the narrator, (for a lack of accents?) Astonishing. This was perfectly read. A gentle caress to the ear. Letting the story do the work, beautiful timbre, and every word delivered with clarity. A masterful definition of the art of narration. Laurel Lefkow, thank you, wonderful work.
The novel, well, it does wander a bit. It addresses questions of science, some of the theories of which were at the point of writing, the shores of the unknown. Putting those questions of existence up against love and faith, an interesting and confusing basket.
I really liked it, but I admit, 60% of that was because of the beauty of Lefkow's voice. She could read the telephone directory for me.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
This story is a wonderful tribute to its author, a man of infinite hope and unquenchable optimism - it just can't be as lonely out there as our sole existence would demand it is! But, in his typical style, preferring to educate than to dictate, by letting the discovery fuel the desire to learn more, Sagan takes the listener on a journey to a most unlikely plane, or, maybe, a not so unlikely one.
These days, most people who love this book have seen the Zemeckis film. For many it disappointed. But it is important to remember that it was Sagan and his wife, Ann Druyan, who wrote the screenplay and, thereby extended their blessing to that interpretation. I mention this because it is hard now to listen to or read the book without picturing Jodie Foster or Matthew McConaughey (the latter in a much elevated role when compared to the book). I found that difficult. A better listener might be able to overcome that condition (or might actually like it).
I enjoyed this production, but probably not as much as my first read of this book many years ago. The first reason for this deficit is the one that I have mentioned (which is constantly in your face, even to the point of it being on the cover art). The second is that I found Laurel Lefkow's reading, although fine in most respects, a bit "sing-songy" in parts, particularly the sentimental parts.
Overall, this is a great story, sagaciously envisioned and well worth the effort to read or listen to.
A few things you need to know before reading/listening to this book:
1) Carl Sagan is not a novelist. Characters are cardboard, the chronology is almost impossible to follow.
2) It was written in 1985, but moves through time to 2000. It, therefore, makes some predictions about the future, but misses the boat quite a bit, which can make it difficult to listen to.
3) Carl Sagan was smart and he wanted you to know it. The book contains constant intellectual ruminations about topics that have little to nothing about the book. These become exhausting after a while and seem to have no other purpose than to show how smart the author is.
I'd suggest skipping the book and watching the movie. The movie has many flaws, but it's only 2 hours long!
I like books that have interesting characters and easy to follow plots. For example, Cormoran Strike, is a great character for me.
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.
I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath
I do believe that if contact was made through radio transmissions, that it would go similar to part one of this book.
Part one gave you some of the awe and wonder of space and how hard scientist work to make discoveries. You can see in the first part of this book where Robert J. Sawyer got some of his ideas for WWW. Wake.
Chapter 10 started part 2. Chapter 10 is a long debate between an agnostic and a bible thumping preacher. I have read some non-fiction books from Sagan and he has mentioned his religious beliefs and his politics. In a non-fiction book I am okay with that, but in a fiction work I believe it is too self serving. Who wouldn't like to have a debate where you dream up the arguments of your opponents? Nor do I have a problem with Sagan being an Agnostic. Arthur C. Clarke is one of my favorite authors and he was an Atheist. Like most books of this time and authors from the Age of Aquarius, there is much talk about Vietnam and Racism.
Part 3 starts with chapter 19. Five chosen people are sent to visit the aliens. Sagan borrows a little from Raymond F. Jones and This Island Earth for this part. The aliens in Jones' book are a lot more interesting. I found Sagan's aliens to be a little anti-climatic. I also could not believe how bitchy the five chosen got on the trip.
I would give part one, four starts, Part two, three stars and Part three, four stars. As a whole three stars.
Interesting and very well read.
The narration and the differences to the film version
I thought it was Jodie Foster?
I would definitely listen to Contact again and not just because it was a brilliant story or because I know I'm going to get more from revisiting it. I spent much of the first listen comparing it to the film but now I've done that, the book will be foremost in my mind and I'll be able to relax with the story.
I can't think of a direct comparison, but there are elements of The Wizard of Oz and Narnia in there - in a really small way!
My favourite scene was the debate between Ellie and the 2 pastors on the nature of her belief in science versus theirs in religion. If I can pick another, the way Ellie's position is flipped about at the end is fab and I enjoyed the reversal. As far as I can tell, belief, faith and respect for each other's views is the heart of the book. I don't know much about Carl Sagan, but I get the sense he didn't believe in absolute certainties and he handles both viewpoints fairly and with an open mind in the book. He leaves you thinking.
If you like lots of technical detail and science alongside your philosophical debate, then you'll really enjoy this story. Personally, I tend to focus on the latter, but I didn't find the science overwhelming or overly uninteresting and zoning out on the odd detail didn't detract from what was an excellent book.
First class narration too.
The narrator's impeccable reading style brought this great book to life. She breathed and became the characters, creating the illusion of reality, involving the listener in Ellie's experiences.
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