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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: BenBella Books; BenBella Books ed edition (December 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932100121
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932100129
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A fascinating ... view of the many responses of mankind to the coming confrontation with intelligent aliens ... First rate science fiction." -- Publishers Weekly

"A must for any library whose readers look beyond their feet." -- Library Journal

"One of the finest books of speculative fiction ever written ... strong, thoughtful, marvelously human, and ... without flaw ... An unforgettable experience." -- Harlan Ellison

"One of the very best fictional portrayals of contact with extraterrestrial intelligence ever written." -- Carl Sagan

About the Author

James Gunn is the author of 38 books, including The Joy Makers, Kampus, The Dreamers, and The Immortals. He has served as the president of the Science Fiction Writers of America and the Science Fiction Research Association. He has won Hugo, Pilgrim, and Eaton awards and has been a professor at the University of Kansas for 40 years. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

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Customer Reviews

Over 90% of this book is boring filler.
sleepy in Seattle
The Listeners by James Gunn was the first of the modern-era SETI radio-telescope contact science fiction novels, and is the best.
Robert Beattie
That's a grand thing to imagine, but I don't feel that Gunn constructed a compelling human story around the technological one.
Benjamin Crowell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Wolverton VINE VOICE on July 18, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I can't tell you if James Gunn's `The Listeners' is better than `Contact' simply because I haven't read Carl Sagan's book. But I have read Gunn's, and I can say that Sagan would have to have moved several planets in order to come close to the quality of `The Listeners.'
Scientist Robert MacDonald is the director of "The Project," a study of sounds coming from the stars. MacDonald firmly believes that life is out there and that intelligent beings will eventually communicate with humans. He and others like him have been listening for over 50 years, but they've heard only silence. Until now.
A cryptic message arrives, but what does it mean? With the threat of the project being shut down, MacDonald desperately seeks to keep his vision alive, but the cost is high.
`The Listeners' is much more than just a "first contact" story. The writing is excellent and the drama is far above what you would expect. The more we learn about communicating with other beings, the more we find we don't know about communicating with each other. An excellent read.
240 pages
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Nichole Long on February 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
On a desperate hunt one summer day for that science-fiction rarity -- a sci-fi story that followed actual scientific laws and did not try my intelligence and patience, I accidentally discovered two books at a used book store. One of these books was The Listeners.
I was in heaven that late summer. This was real science fiction. This book was fantastic! There were no "starships" or "Deathstars." There were only well-drawn, complex, and brilliant characters using their scientific and technical gifts.Obviously, as one reviewer had already observed, this "first contact" novel was the inspiration for Carl Sagan's work "Contact." In my opinion, "The Listeners" is the better-written book, even though I will always remain a huge fan of the late - and forever great - Carl Sagan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beattie on July 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
The Listeners by James Gunn was the first of the modern-era SETI radio-telescope contact science fiction novels, and is the best.

Listeners' author James Gunn is a Hugo-winning science fiction Grandmaster, ranked on a short list with Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and other famous SFWA Grandmasters.

As he has explained in print, Gunn started writing what became the novel The Listeners in August 1965, inspired by Walter Sullivan's 1964 prize-winning nonfiction book about SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), We Are Not Alone [a book highly recommended].

Consisting almost entirely of stories originally published 1968-1972 in science fiction magazines (Galaxy and others), some material was added and The Listeners was published as a novel in late 1972.

My jaw dropped when reading some of the misplaced criticism of this novel published in Amazon reviews. Stanislaw Lem's First Contact novel His Master's Voice was first published in English in 1984, a dozen years after Gunn's novel was published in 1972. That was nearly twenty-years after Gunn wrote the first section in 1965. Gunn's novella "The Listeners" was published by Fred Pohl in Galaxy magazine in 1968 before Lem's novel was published in Polish in Europe. Gunn did not steal from Stanislaw Lem.

And to imply that because story material is "dated" it somehow shouldn't be read is absurd. Like Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Austin's Pride and Prejudice, and Burroughs' Tarzan, Gunn's The Listeners is marvelously representative of its time and place.

In 2012, forty-years after it was first published as a novel, James Gunn's The Listeners is still an excellent and thought-provoking science fiction read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tactitles VINE VOICE on December 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book stands on its own in the crowded works of first contact stories. It begins in the year 2025, when the first radio signals from another world are discovered. The nature of the signals is slowly revealed, as a sort of mystery is investigated. The message contained in the signals is subject to some interpretation, and the sorting out of it all is enjoyable to read. The eventual answers are surprisingly moving. Earth resolves to send a response, but the distances involved will take decades to arrive, and any return response decades more. Will humans still be interested then? Will the Project, as the SETI-like organization is called, still exist?

The emphasis of this book is not on the aliens. It is firmly on the people of the Project. They are scientists and dreamers, who so firmly believe in their cause that they are willing to concede that their own mortalities will never allow them to know the success or failure of their endeavors. Yet they persist. The director we meet at the beginning is Robert MacDonald, who is mostly unaware of his influential nature with others. He is a genuine character. As the story is told, years pass and involvement passes from Robert to several grandchildren, who follow in his footsteps. Political and religious issues are briefly introduced, and add to the story. Characters do not receive a lot of individual attention, due to the short length of the book. But their natures and passions are apparent, and despite brevity, Gunn still manages to develop them sufficiently to elicit interest and empathy from the reader. Gunn's writing is superb. He chooses the right moments to display poetic writing, but still manages an effective conciseness as an overall tone.
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