Jafar's Reviews > Contact

Contact by Carl Sagan
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's review
Sep 05, 2009

really liked it

I was very pleased to see that there can be a first-rate, proper scientist who can not only write great popular science books (there are other examples too, like Dawkins and Gould), but who can also write great fiction (I cannot think of any other example). I normally stay away from sci-fi books and movies. I’m just not attracted to the adolescent fantasies of one galaxy waging war against another galaxy with their shiny weapons and spaceships, or yet another tribe of extraterrestrials coming down to invade our planet. But this book was so different. This is great literature.

I know Sagan was a liberal and a secular humanist, and I agree with a lot of what he had to say, but I didn’t like him mixing his politics and stance on various social issues with science fiction. I find it tasteless for any writer to use a work of fiction to show his politics in a very obvious way. Write a political pamphlet or manifesto, and keep it out of your literary work. Or at least do it with more tact and subtlety. In the first 40 pages of the book you learn about Sagan’s position on education, gender equality, Vietnam War, and traditional religions. And it goes on. The book is more than a science fiction. It also encompasses the pacifist and “progressive” fantasies of Sagan. I had read Sagan saying in an article that some of his best writings were done under the influence of cannabis. Surely enough, you find in the book that in the more enlightened future cannabis has been legalized. I have to admit, though, that I absolutely loved the arguments about God and religion and how Sagan takes deadly jabs at religion but still leaves room for God and a purposeful universe.

It’s a shame that the U.S. government stopped funding the SETI project given how little it actually costs to keep it running. If, as a species, we want to run a project to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, it has to be a country that can afford spending a little bit on something that is so fascinating, even if it seems a bit fantastical. You expect Zimbabwe to do it? We should do it because it’s so damn intriguing and we can afford to do it. Everyone in the world knows now that the United States can pick up some fucked-up, defenseless country every few years and throw it at the wall. Isn’t it much better to be known for doing something like putting a man on the moon – or picking up a non-natural radio signal that is coming from the outer space?
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message 1: by Rustam (new)

Rustam Amen.

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