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Contact Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 1997
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New York Times Book Review "Contact deals with issues...worth pondering.The range and depth of ideas is quite uncommon."
Newsweek "Like a good mystery, Contact keeps us curious to the end...ingenious and satisfying."
From the Publisher
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.
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2) Characters (4 stars) - Ellie is the brilliant scientist charging forward for the cause of the rational, while sometimes missing the subtleties of interpersonal relations or emotions. She's a romantic which puts her at odds with her fellow scientists, but also deeply analytical which puts her at odds with much of humanity. On top of it, she's a female in a male dominated profession which allows for sexual and gender conflict as well. I enjoyed riding along with her on this journey.
3) Theme (5 stars) - Are we alone in the universe? It's so immense that it seems almost mathematically impossible for us to be the only "intelligent" life form. But if so, why haven't we made contact? Is it a lack of technology on our side or theirs? A lack of interest? A time or space distance too large to hurdle? Or are we just too different to understand each other? This was the surface question of the book, but underlying it was the theme of faith vs. empirical rationality, and how we need both to dream and advance. A message which was summed up beautifully in the book's conclusion.
4) Voice (4 stars) - Sagan became famous for translating esoteric scientific principles into simple and engaging parlance for non-scientists, and this ability shines through in his prose. Through Sagan's eyes all the prosaic backdrop we take for granted--ants, stars, mathematic concepts--come alive with his curiosity and the teeming science behind them.
5) Setting (4 stars) - The book takes place in a variety of science facilities on Earth, and a bit in outer space. All were described well and I felt transported there.
6) Overall (4 stars) - An excellent story on the role of science in our present and future, made accessible through a strong lead, interesting plot, and a kindly professorial voice. Smart and fun. I'd recommend it.
I personally liked the war of words between the Science and Religion. It was factual and brought out the frustrations involved in both sides of the argument.
So was I disappointed in the movie after finally reading the book? No, movies are different than books. Both versions of Contact, in spite of their differences, are valid approaches to the same subject (with the movie inspired by the book, of course). My only beef as a scientist, and this applies to both versions of the story. My response to doubt is: let us take another ride and see if Jodie (or the group of 5 in the book) have the same experience. N=2 yields at least one-degree of freedom.