Sunday, August 10, 2008

Carl Sagan's Contact

I just finished reading Carl Sagan's Contact. I had seen the movie long ago, and forgotten much of the story. I found the ideas to be quite engaging, but thought the writing not very good. I know, it is probably not smart to say that about such a famous book, but seriously... Sagan's ideas are what sells, not his prose.

I liked the interweaving in the text of ideas about science and theology. Indeed, at one point one character says that all science is necessarily engaged with theology. I am not sure that I can entirely agree with this statement, but I can see how it would seem to be the case from the perspective of a person whose life is dedicated to science.

I loved most the plausibility of the scientific developments. Even though the conclusions that followed it (basically, a vision of world cooperation leading to a hope for a utopian type of world peace) were a little far-fetched for me, I still found the science of it all very engaging. And that's not entirely surprising — Sagan was a better scientist than sociologist, I guess. But, in all fairness, the book doesn't exactly promise the achievement of world peace, and in the end it does a nice job of exploring the various oppositions that would arise to such a vision. What I found a little too idealistic was the notion that the Machine would get built at all. That level of cooperation, despite the tense political setting of the novel, is just a bit much to swallow.

But all in all, it is a good read, and worth getting into the ideas presented.

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