Review of “Contact” by Carl Sagan

ContactI’ve recently discovered the joy of listening to audiobooks rather than reading on my phone or in the physical form. I put on my sneakers and put in my earbuds. Then I start walking. Or perhaps I catch a bus to work or wherever it is that I’m going.

It works great. I lose a lot of time daily on commuting and this way it doesn’t feel like it’s gone to waste. The amount of reading I do now has gone up and I do less of anxious over thinking I unavoidably do when my mind isn’t focused on other things.

Contact was the perfect audiobook. I had the edition read by Laurel Lefkow and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s another one read by Jodie Foster, who is famous and all, but the way Lefkow read this amazing piece of fiction was just perfect. The way she adjusted her accent and the depth of her voice to suit the characters really enhanced my experience and made me feel the book more deeply than I would have if I was just reading it.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by the way Carl Sagan writes. It’s vivid, easily understood even when he talks about complex topics and endlessly vibrant. Since the original Cosmos was way before my time, I had little knowledge of his work, let alone that he wrote amazing fiction.

Ellie Arroway is a radio astronomer and a director of “Project Argus”, an array of radio telescopes who are a part of SETI or the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. One day they pick up a strange signal from a star called Vega which is 26 light years away and the brightest star in the constellation Lyra. As it turns out, the signal contains a reflected transmission of the 1936 Summer Olympic games in Berlin and Hitler’s speech at the opening. Under the original message, there is another one containing blueprints of a strange machine and a handbook on how to build it.

This novel is a fantastic blend of discussions about philosophy, science, religion and the future of the humankind. It entertains the idea (and the very probable fact!) that we aren’t alone in the universe, but are just one of many endless civilisations out there. It’s as scary as it is exciting to think about it.

There are about 7 billion of human beings on Earth at the Earth at the moment and we all like to think that we are different and that something like our religion, race, political affiliations or even just our career makes us better than the others. But far from it. We all forget that we all are just human beings. And if it takes a machine sent from beings from the outer space to makes us unite and stop killing each other as much, I really hope there is a radio signal on its way to Earth from the star Vega.

The characters occasionally seem secondary to the whole plot but they are the carriers of the conversations that discuss the values of humanity. Hadden, the eccentric billionaire, was my favourite character, apart from Ellie. He represents the human ingenuity and the courage to not conform to anything that sets our progress.

What we often forget and this book reflects is that we are as technologically advanced as we have ever been as species. We may not have commercial space flight yet nor we’ve terraformed Mars (looking at you, Elon), but we have small technological wonders that we use on daily basis. Powerful computers of the size of a palm, panels that convert the Sun into energy that conserves our food, bring us light at night and warms us in the cold months and so many machines that make us lazier.

But we’re getting there. It’s only exponentially upwards from here. Our world is a beautiful one.

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