Contact is a science fiction novel by Carl Sagan published in September 1985. It's about a young astronomer searching for evidence of extra-terrestrial life and finding it in the form of an encoded message from space, and the government, religious, and media craze that ensues as the message is decoded to be instructions to build some sort of massive machine.
My first experience with Contact was from seeing the movie shortly after it came out. I liked it, but my friend Nick explained that it was terrible compared to the book. Years later, I saw a first edition hardcover on sale at the Montrose Blueberry Festival and bought it for $1. I started to read it with apprehension, not believing an astronomer could write a compelling work of fiction, but I quickly found myself really being drawn into the book and loved it.
I have a first edition hardcover and have read it, and I'm currently listening to an audio book.
— This section contains spoilers! —
- So few sci-fi novels have a strong female lead character, so Ellie is a wonderful change of pace. Sagan does a great job at articulating all the bullshit women have to deal with when they work in a male-dominated field. She's both intelligent and unsure and proactive and humble, she likes sex, and has it on her terms, but she also makes bad decisions throughout the book which makes her more human.
- Being written by not just a scientist, but a science communicator, really mixes in a lot of great science education.
- The global fervor is addressed on how it affects both the scientific, political, and religious communities, and I think Sagan does a great job at fairly and accurately depicting how they would respond.
- The book uses a wide variety of vocabulary, and uses it well.
- Sagan's depiction of the near-future Earth is both realistic (countries are still distrusting) and hopeful (the US has its first female president).