How would the world react if intelligent contact through radio waves originating from outer space were detected? Better yet, what would motivate extraterrestrial beings to establish contact with the human race? Carl Sagan postulates the answers to these compelling questions in Contact (1985), the book that preceded the 1997 film by the same name.
Let me preface this by mentioning that I am terrified of aliens! Perhaps I was exposed to horror film extraterrestrials too young, but for some reason, I find the idea of them to be uniquely terrifying. Because of that, I was a little nervous about picking this book up given the title and the suggestive cover art (I hadn’t seen the movie before), but it was my bf’s turn to choose what book we would read together and luckily, it turned out to be a lot different from what I was expecting.
Before reading this book, I didn’t know who Carl Sagan was. (Call me uncultured. :D) After learning about him, I think it’s incredible that an expert in the field of astronomy would apply his scientific knowledge to write a novel on the subject. What he lacks in prose and character development, he makes up for in credibility.
Throughout the story, the book convincingly argues for the existence of life beyond Earth. Often, the dialogue between characters philosophically explores the meaning of intelligent contact and, in the presence of irrefutable proof of otherworldly life, the implications for mankind’s place in the universe and therefore questions our many interpretations of religion. Contact explores the dynamic between science and religion thoroughly, ultimately suggesting that both domains of human interest are not exclusive of each other.
Reading Contact encouraged me to think big thoughts, humor ideas about the universe, and imagine my own scenario for what would happen if intelligent extraterrestrial life reached out to us. How would my worldview change, if it changed at all? The thoughts provoked were a practice in reflection and speculation. The sole concept of outer space and an ever expanding universe mystifies human beings, myself included. Even more awe-inducing is the idea of others like us sharing the universe. The ideas shared by Sagan in Contact inspired in me a sense of belonging on a much larger, cosmic scale.