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The Listeners Paperback – December 11, 2003
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"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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
The message, the prime numbers, Arecibo, political/religious controversies, etc. all seem to have been almost “lifted” from this earlier work.
But, to be fair, all of the ideas combined herein were thought up first by scientists (including Sagan) in the ‘50s and ‘60s and earlier.
And Sagan is quoted extensively in the book.
So it wasn’t really stealing.
Some naiveté about politics and economics, but, it was written 40 years ago.
And at the end, a shade of the danger posed in Fred Hoyle’s, A For Andromeda.
It is a great and classic work of first contact, anticipating SETI.
Again I usually love little tidbits of thought in my stories but moderation is the key, here it goes way overboard to the point I feel like the story itself wasn't fully developed to the level it could have been.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
there are some slow parts in the book but overall i enjoyed it. as with all online ebook purchases i always read the free introductions first before hitting the "buy now"... Read morePublished on February 10, 2014 by CO Native
I don't normally write reviews, but this book is such a bore it's just not worth the effort. Have you ever bought a desert because it looked so good but after the first bite you... Read morePublished on June 20, 2012 by Mackal O Smith
Over 90% of this book is boring filler. So instead of wasting your time, just read the plot summary on Wikipedia. Read morePublished on December 28, 2010 by sleepy in Seattle
The core story - scientists on earth intercept an alien message, send a reply and get a surprising reply back from the aliens - is intriguing. Read morePublished on October 31, 2010 by AJIT WARRIER
This is a story about the success of SETI. That's a grand thing to imagine, but I don't feel that Gunn constructed a compelling human story around the technological one. Read morePublished on June 13, 2010 by Benjamin Crowell
I too ran across this in a used book store. I had not heard of Gunn before but this book is an excellent surprise discovery. Read morePublished on April 14, 2008 by pidloop