Monday, August 8, 2011

ReView of 'Contact' by Carl Sagan

Science Fiction - 431pgs
Orbit (first published in 1985)

This has been a book long overdue to read.  I have been meaning to read it for years, and finally the time is here, and I have read it.  Actually, it's been quite a while since I have read a book lately.  It's been some tough times lately, but reading hasn't failed me and so here I am again! 'Contact' has been an amazing journey.

 This is a very dense and complex book, to say the least.  It is DENSE.  It's hard-writing as well.  It sort of gave me the feeling that I sometimes get after reading 3-4 research scientific articles - a pounding headache from the overload of information at the top of my right temple.  Nevertheless, nothing worth knowing or having comes easy, and so is the case with this book.  It really covers a whole spectrum of topics - childhood, coming of age through wonderment and questioning, being a female in a male dominated science field, having a passion for the universe, battle between science and religion and whether we are alone or not in the Universe, and if we are not alone who else is out there with us, and topics of religions all over the world and the parallel stories they share between one another (this subject in particular flew over my head most of the time). Then there are the topics of physics and mathematics.  Not only are there quite a large number of topics being covered, but all are of multidimentional aspect.  They involve cultural notions, individual voices, the human soul, ancestry and the future, the planet and our universe...etc.  And on top of everything this is not a short read, it is 448pages!

So what if it's dense, complex, and long?  For me, this was one of the most enlightening but most challenging books - intellectually, spiritually, and scientifically.  There's not doubt, I will have to revisit this book if I can take away even 25% of the whole message or even a small portion of the debates between science and religion.  As a science fiction, it is an acquired taste, and more so because of the topics of universe and religious arguments and history, you have to be a little familiar with the two to get a good chunk of what's going on.  Even against the fact that I am quite ignorant of many things, including religious beliefs around the world and even astronomy, this book was very fulfilling because it still maintained a consistent human element throughout the book.  And that, THAT, is the key to any great book - a consistent human presence in the voice of the writing.  Carl Sagan didn't get the Pulitzer Prize for the Cosmo out of thin air.

This book has changed me a little bit, and a book that can do that is a powerful book.  I look up at the sky multiple times every day, and for the first time in my life I really look up at the sky and, one, remember very profoundly that I live on a very special planet, and two, realize that it's very likely that we are not alone.  I believe we are not alone, but we have no proof of it, and as a scientist I have to hold a level of skepticism until the proof is confirmed, but as a spiritual person I believe we are not alone!  This book has also opened up my eyes to our past and our future, our religious beliefs-where they come from-and where we are and where we are going in terms of religion, and most importantly ask 'WHY' just like the main character in the book did.  For a while now, I have felt the urge to look at the interconnectedness of the world, and this book pushed me further to delve into different aspects of our existences and maybe link different things together form religion, to science, to the Universe, and most important to learn as much as I can about our own planet because there is enough on this planet, right in front of our eyes, to teach us all we need to now about ourselves, our ancestors, our future, and possibly our place in the Universe.

It's about that time in the world when 'Contact' is probably more relevant than ever before!  Maybe this comment will make more sense in the near future, just mark my words.  We are not alone!  I say this not just from reading 'Contact,' but from other reputable sources, but since the topic here is about 'Contact' I'll stick to stating that the book did in fact have a part in it too. 'Contact' opens an avenue for discourse at least, and I have always believed that a platform for discussion is the first step toward getting closer to the truth.

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