Having become “the face of space science” in 1980 through his 13-week PBS series Cosmos, Carl Sagan exploited his fame with a novel about the first contact between extraterrestrial beings and humans.
Contact‘s main character is scientist Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, who runs a network of radio telescopes listening for signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
One night her team discovers what appears to be a numerical, coded message coming from the star Vega, 26 light-years away.
America’s scientists, politicians, and military scramble to respond.
They have to bring other nations in to help collect the message that’s being broadcast when America is turned away from Vega. They also need help to break the code.
Sagan uses the novel to talk about his hot-button issues: religious people who discount science, fellow scientists who grandstand, and politicians who don’t understand or adequately fund scientific research.
Sagan fails, as many science fiction writers do, to make his characters much more than personas invented by a marketing team intent on selling dish detergent.
As a result, his novel self-restricts to an audience of science fans, leaving novels fans wishing for some characters with human emotions.
Contact by Carl Sagan
Simon and Schuster. 1985. 432 p.
1985 bestseller #7 ; my grade: C
©2019 Linda G. Aragoni