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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, boring book, 19 May 2010
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This review is from: Contact (Paperback)
Carl Sagan is one of those people whose legacy seems untouchable. From the Pale Blue Dot and his work with NASA to the groundbreaking and essential TV series Cosmos you'll never hear a bad word spoken about him. He's one of those people who just makes you damn proud to be human. I cracked through the box set of Cosmos in under a week and was eager for more. I was excited by the prospect of Sagan having a whole novel to stretch out his ideas and was curious about how the passion and intelligence he displayed on screen would translate to the page.

What a shame then that this book is such a crushing bore! Massive theme's, breathtaking consequences. A protagonist vindicated before the whole world and realising a life's dream; contact with beings from another world! Do we sense any of this? I'm sorry but I didn't. The enthusiasm evident in Sagan's TV programs is all but absent from his prose. The writing is so dry, academic and thuddingly dull. There's just no personality or style to it. I wasn't expecting loads of laughs or anything but this book is as close to being amusing as we are to a faint star in a distant galaxy. Characters still need to be human, not machines for the pursuit of science or puppets to espouse the authors theories on Religion and politics. Dr Arroway, our protagonist, is given an injection of excitement and personality when she reveals that she is pretty liberated sexually. Not that she is given a chance to persue her penchant for experimentation; it forms no part of the plot and her only love interest is a lukewarm affair which peters out weakly. Really, her liking sex has more to do with Sagan's ideas on Feminism than it does to her character. Similarly we are presented with two religious characters, one closed minded and fundamentalist, the other open minded, giving Arroway (an Atheist) a chance to argue with both faces of religious intuitionalism. Can you guess who comes out on top? The shame is that as a respected scientist and thinker Sagan does have great idea's on a wide range of subjects but the whole book smacks more of a thought experiment than it does a novel. I have to say if it wasn't for the strength of the ideas and my respect for the man I'd have given up a long way before the finish. My curiosity did win out, and I really wanted to read Sagan's vision for first contact between Humans and an Alien race. The result is believable and fairly spectacular, or at least it would be if, like the rest of the book, the life wasn't drained out of it by the dull characters and duller writing.
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