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Contact, Carl Sagan

2010/04/02

“Contact” was the first work by Carl Sagan that I read. I remember first reading about it on a messageboard discussing faith and arts, and thinking, hmm, that sounds interesting. The novel follows Ellie Arroway, a scientist involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), from her childhood, where she shares a close relationship with her father before his sudden death, to her struggles to be accepted as a scholar and scientist in a male-dominated field. The bulk of the novel surrounds a message being transmitted to the earth from a planet called Vega, which is heavily encrypted and turns out to contain instructions for building a machine whose purpose is not known. Ellie, as the first one to discover this message, becomes one of the leading experts and consultants for this project.

The writing is heavily weighted with scientific explanations and descriptions, which can be daunting for those without a science background. Still, chapters such as the debate between Ellie and two religious leaders are packed with theological, philosophical, and scientific nuggets of thought. It is a hefty novel, and readers may get bogged down in some sections, but it is a rewarding chronicle of one woman’s journey through science and belief.

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