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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 3 October 2001
This book is proof enough that one of the world's greatest space scientists can also write great SF!
It is a super SF novel, but it's more than that. Throughout the book, Carl Sagan's love and hope for the human race shine through.
Eleanora Arroway, a woman who has known her fair share of bad times in her life, eventually becomes the head of a space center which listens for messages from intelligent extraterrestrials. Against all the odds, a message is discovered and deciphered. Instead of being a message telling us how to create the perfect society, or a religious revelation, it turns out to be a blueprint for a highly-advanced machine.
Do they dare build it? And if they do, what will the machine do? Religious fundamentalists battle with governments and scientists to destroy the project. For the machine, chillingly, is clearly designed to carry a team of people...
If the machine is built, who will ride in it, and where will it take them? You will have to read it to find out!
This book has been made into a movie, but, although it's good, I felt that it did not really do justice to the book. This is one of the finest SF novels I've read - great characters, a gripping plot, high adventure, and to cap it all, a wonderful ending (which is not the same as the movie). An uplifting book which I recommend to one and all. Simply fab!
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on 18 December 2001
This book is simply brilliant,it flowlessly combines science, science fiction, and a deeply moving story. What would happen if an alien civilization much more advanced than us made contact with us? What would they think about us? How would we feel when we knew that we're no so special as we thought, that there are people more intelligent, more advanced and above all, more civilliced than us? Sagan brilliantly played with these questions along the story, wich tells us about the life of Ellie Arroway, the most deeply involved astronomer in the whole affair of finding a message from allien beings, decoding it, and finally make contact. Through Ellie's point of view, we witness the whole story: Team work of scientist around the globe, political affairs (deep criticism of virtually every political system is descreetly included in Ellie's conversations with her coleages), religious affairs, the achievement of the goal, the hipocrisy and cruelty of politicians, and private aspects of Ellie's life as the death of her father, her relation with her mother and stepfather, her love affairs; this may seem beside the point in this story, but, are scientific questions and doubts such as the existence of extra terrestrial intelligence more important than "simple" personal questions and doubts about our lives? Sagan also played brillantly with this question, and when I finished the book, I started to ponder a few things, as the scientific I am, and as the human being I am. As I said, a deeply moving and exciting story.
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on 2 June 2000
Having seen the movie first, and loved it, my expectations were high.
I was not in the least disappointed.
This is a conciousness altering book that provides food for the soul.
Inspiring, deeply moving and full of a wonder that makes you feel young again.
Immediately after finishing Contact I went outside and gazed up at the stars. And smiled.
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on 7 October 2015
Having seen, and thoroughly enjoyed, the film, I looked forward to finally reading
the book. The basics are the same - young lady working with radio telescopes
out in the wilds, eventually picks up messages from outer space.
In time the messages are translated, from which a fantastic machine is built, one
that can transport travellers to the stars.
The book and film have subtle differences, and, in my opinion, the film is a vast
improvement.
The love interest is with a different person from the book, and the final journey, in
the film, benefits from a sole traveller.
The book fills in much more of the complicated theories and data, and sometimes
leaves you gobsmacked.
But all in all a nice filler to the film.
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on 7 January 2016
The physics aspects were interesting with some nice ideas, but the philosophical/religious parts were hardgoing. The idea of there being hidden messages inside transcendental numbers was a good one. Overall I enjoyed parts of this book, but felt that there was an awful lot of padding – many chapters that had I read them or not, would have made no difference to my understanding of the plot.
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I am a long-time fan of the movie, but hadn't quite gotten around to reading the book. When I started it, I was - as I often am - a little put out of countenance by the differences. However, what emerges from the book is an even richer, even deeper story. The scientific concepts thrown around at first seemed like window-dressing, but eventually emerge as absolutely core to understanding the message, both in and out of text. Carl Sagan was a wonderful communicator, as his Cosmos series, his books and his lectures clearly show. What Contact shows is that he was also a tremendous story-teller - in retrospect, that's not much of a revelation as all his work is inherently the act of telling stories about the universe. His fiction is infused with fact, but his ability to do that with such seamless elegance is a rare talent.

I was also deeply impressed by Sagan's explorations of the issue of faith. I consider Carl Sagan to have been one of the pre-eminent atheistic philosophers of the age, and as such I wouldn't have expected his discussion of faith to be so rounded and so inclusive. He always did have the ability, far beyond those of raving loons like Dawkins, to offer a cogent and respectful deconstruction of theism without being spiteful or dismissive - I'd say Contact though shows that he did have a spiritual side that was more, not less, inspiring with the removal of God from the equation.

I won't go so far as to say that, despite my initial suspicion, the book is better than the movie. I will say though that they tell two very different stories - connected in some key players and events, but otherwise radically different in both tone and implication. You can enjoy one without the other, but as with the lessons of scientific co-operation across the world in the book it's better to consider the tale from two perspectives.
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on 13 December 2013
As a keen fan of science I hold a large amount of respect and admiration for Carl Sagan.
As for the this story, first of all, the plot's great. Though the writing's a little too detailed and technical in places, it's still very much readable. I was surprised at just how much religion was covered in the story - which I found to be unnecessary, off-putting at times. Especially considering that Sagan wasn't remotely religious himself. As some other commenters have pointed out, it's quite different from the film, if you have happened across it, you'll notice a lot of differences between the novel and the 1990s movie.
I wasn't sure whether to rate it a three or a four star. I settled on four stars, which if you can get passed the unecessary bits about religion and the sometimes confusing technical jargon, it's well worth the read.
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on 4 March 2015
A wonderfully intelligent science fiction book (with the emphasis on the science), and much better than the film adaptation with Jodie Foster. Read this if you want to discover how a cosmologist can write extremely accurate sci-fi. Carl Sagan was an eccentric legend and this comes through in his novel.
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on 4 January 2000
I am one of those fortunate readers who came across Carl Sagan's books while I was still a teenager. "Contact" and his other books came at the right time to make a lasting impression, and I depend on them to this day. The novel is brilliantly written: the characterization is flawless, the plot has never a dull moment and I there is a wonderfull attention to a number of details that the plot renders symbolic and bring coherence to the whole. It promises a lot and delivers it! Sagan's scientific thought is present throughout and his predictions are scientifically sound. The book is a lesson on good writing, science and philosophy, and it is Carl Sagan's great achievement that he wrote a science fiction book which will never be made irrelevant by progress, and which is a lot more than a good defence of SETI. It sends a message, enticing in form and content, and I am sure it still becomes every reader's comfort book. I recommend it to everyone, and not only those interested in science. I gratefully honour Carl Sagan's memory and pay my respects to his family.
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on 28 February 2013
World respected scientist Carl Sagan takes us on an adventure of cosmic proportions, the first contact between mankind and aliens. What makes this stand out though is not the aliens, but the story of humanity as it struggles to cope with the possibility that we are not alone.

Set over a period of many years, Contact tells the story in a way that seems believable and in such a scientific manner that at times the novel feels like part textbook, part fiction. An exploration in philosophy, feminism and religion as well as science. Sagan's optimism and hopes for humanity's future shines throughout the book and is a joy to read. His ideas have clearly impacted science fiction ever since showing up in everything from Star Trek to Mass Effect.
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