And this month, I have read...

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And this month, I have read...

Post by Rasq'uire'laskar on Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:17 pm

Know I might start an argument here, but I have just finished Contact, by Carl Sagan. Started it back in 11th grade, lost the book, bought a new one, and just recently cracked it open.
For those of you who don't now what it's about, it's about first contact with alien intelligence. Our SETI researchers receive a message from the star Vega, a long, repeating radio signal with multiple layers of information detailing how to build a machine that... well, we're not quite sure what it does. But what are we supposed to do, ignore it?

So, for a book by Carl Sagan, you would be correct in expecting religion to creep in at some point in time. And yeah, the religious implications of such a Message are visited upon. This part, I honestly don't know what to think. In some places, Sagan clearly didn't do the research, and a Straw Religious Baptist Preacher was inserted to... well, I don't know what he contributed to the story, except maybe so Sagan could point to him and say "Heh, what an idiot". And, another mark of Sagan, the advanced aliens (So advanced, they're just short of Godhood) are unilaterally benevolent, and they sent the message partly as a response to a television broadcast of the 1936 Munich Olympics. The thought process seems to have gone on something like this:
"Uh-oh. Marching, uniforms, banners with birds of prey... better send them a message to knock it off, before they discover nuclear power. That's a nice planet they have, don't want to see it ruined."
"Yeah. They've got some pretty good music playing, though."
"Well, yes, that's a point in their favor."


This was written back in 1985, so some things have marched on, just like any other classic science fiction novel. The true stamp of authenticity for this novel is that, though it takes place in the late 1990s and ends at the turn of the millennium, the Soviet Union is still in business, and we are playing RPG games from... floppy disks.

Overall, the novel focuses on decrypting the message and building the Machine. The ending... well, mysteries are explored, and the end has a twist that makes me think that Sagan wasn't as hard on religion as he let on earlier in the book. If you guys haven't picked this book up, I strongly suggest you do.

On a final note, I think I must be more pessimistic than Sagan. A minor detail was that a large number of religious people were foolishly donating all their wealth to the poor, so when the world ends at the turn of the millennium, they may be granted higher favors. Sorry, Carl, but I seem to think that Humanity is a little too greedy for that.

Next up: Icarus Hunt. Razz


Last edited by Rasq'uire'laskar on Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:26 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by Lord Pheonix on Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:24 pm

I remember the movie



Never. Again.

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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by Felix on Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:43 pm

Movie was ok
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by Ruski on Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:58 pm

I personally believe Stephen Hawkings say on intelligent life in the universe and what we should do.

But yeah, I suppose I'll try to get the book and give it a read. Ruski
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by PiEdude on Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:06 pm

I don't get why everyone hates the movie so much.
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by KrAzY on Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:12 pm

I think the movie is fine until the very end
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by Rasq'uire'laskar on Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:59 pm

Ruski wrote:I personally believe Stephen Hawkings say on intelligent life in the universe and what we should do.

But yeah, I suppose I'll try to get the book and give it a read. Ruski
Great. I start a thread about a book, and here is the only guy who bothers to talk about /the book/. Listen, people, I don't have a problem with bringing up the movie, per se. I haven't seen it myself. But please, say more than "The movie sucked" or "What was wrong with the movie?"

By definition, the movie is inferior to the book unless we're talking about "The Prestige". But WHY did it suck?

KrAzY wrote:I think the movie is fine until the very end
How did the ending go?
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by KrAzY on Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:01 am

the end you finally get to "see the aliens" but its her dad
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by Toaster on Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:35 pm

KrAzY wrote:the end you finally get to "see the aliens" but its her dad

No, it's not her dad. The alien appeared in the form of her father, because it was an image that she was most comfortable with (like at the end of Space Odyssey, when Bowman finds himself in a victorian-style home, with cabinets full of cereal boxes and the like.)

I haven't read the book. I thought the movie was fairly enjoyable, but it did seem a bit... all over the place. It skips around quite a bit, and certain elements seem kind of cheap.

Most of the stuff at the beginning, with the radio signals, and the Hitler broadcast, were actually really cool, and whoever made that "whooshing" sound was a brilliant sound director.

In the movie, they didn't really do the whole "the aliens are doing this to prevent us from destroying ourselves with nuclear weapons" thing that Sagan was so fond of. Instead, the explained that the Hitler broadcast was sent back simply because it was the first world-wide broadcast in human history, and the aliens wanted to let us know that they saw it too.

I didn't like the stuff about religion either. I think it's obvious that, if we discovered a new alien intelligence, all sorts of crazies would flip out, and protest, and shoot each other, and drink cyanide.... but the movie was a little over-the-top in portraying that. They took the route of casting one of the most disgusting looking human beings, with really nasty looking hair, as the main "religious bad guy," and even had him BLOW UP the first stargate... as if security wouldn't have been a bit more competent.

Matthew Mcconaughey's character is just like Matthew Mcconaughey's character in every other movie. I don't really like him, but he's tolerable.

Toward the end of the movie is where it really shines. That scene just before she goes through the worm-hole, with the floor becoming translucent underneath her, is really exciting, and really powerful... but when she gets back, the movie is just disappointing... though I did tear up a bit when the credits opened with "for carl"

Though I haven't read the book, I think it's fair to say that, while Carl Sagan is a fantastic prose writer, and the greatest human being of all time, he's not particularly good at fiction.

Rasq wrote:the end has a twist that makes me think that Sagan wasn't as hard on religion as he let on earlier in the book. If you guys haven't picked this book up, I strongly suggest you do.

I don't know. There's a difference between religion and basic spirituality. Carl Sagan was a big fan of science-based spirituality, and knew that her could try and relate to religious people on that basis.

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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by Rasq'uire'laskar on Tue Mar 29, 2011 8:57 pm

ReconToaster wrote:
KrAzY wrote:the end you finally get to "see the aliens" but its her dad

No, it's not her dad. The alien appeared in the form of her father, because it was an image that she was most comfortable with (like at the end of Space Odyssey, when Bowman finds himself in a victorian-style home, with cabinets full of cereal boxes and the like.)
Which, funnily enough, the Firstborn modeled on what they could see from the television.

ReconToaster wrote: I haven't read the book. I thought the movie was fairly enjoyable, but it did seem a bit... all over the place. It skips around quite a bit, and certain elements seem kind of cheap.
The book follows Ellie's POV almost exclusively, if that helps.
And of the books I plan on covering, I thought this one was, for sure, the one you were most likely to have read. :p

ReconToaster wrote:
In the movie, they didn't really do the whole "the aliens are doing this to prevent us from destroying ourselves with nuclear weapons" thing that Sagan was so fond of. Instead, the explained that the Hitler broadcast was sent back simply because it was the first world-wide broadcast in human history, and the aliens wanted to let us know that they saw it too.
That was one of the first theories thrown around by the humans, though the scientists eventually started speculating about the nuclear weapons angle.

ReconToaster wrote:I didn't like the stuff about religion either. I think it's obvious that, if we discovered a new alien intelligence, all sorts of crazies would flip out, and protest, and shoot each other, and drink cyanide.... but the movie was a little over-the-top in portraying that. They took the route of casting one of the most disgusting looking human beings, with really nasty looking hair, as the main "religious bad guy," and even had him BLOW UP the first stargate... as if security wouldn't have been a bit more competent.
Yikes.
In the book, a certain "Billy Jo Rankin" was an antagonist. Televangelist, but mostly harmless. The sabotage did occur, but it was WAY too sophisticated for Rankin, and they never caught the persons responsible.

I thought the Rankin character was interesting, depending on HOW you interpret him. Either he's a Strawman Religious who preyed on his flock and proved that Sagan didn't do the research (he was stumped by basic contradictions Ellie was bringing up. Maybe not stumped so much as "Oh, crap, don't know the answer, just going to glide right over it")

Or he was a con artist who was in the Religion business to get rich, not the other way around. I think this interpretation has the most support, because of a REAL tasteless 'Relic' he sold to his congregation and because of his hostility toward Ellie and scientists in general. As a rule of thumb, the more defensive and argumentative you are about your beliefs, the less you understand about them.

ReconToaster wrote: Toward the end of the movie is where it really shines. That scene just before she goes through the worm-hole, with the floor becoming translucent underneath her, is really exciting, and really powerful... but when she gets back, the movie is just disappointing... though I did tear up a bit when the credits opened with "for carl"
If it's anything like the book, I can see what you're saying. Absolutely beautiful buildup, the aliens were absolutely fascinating, as was what their work was.
And then the Machinonauts come home, they have zero proof they even went anywhere, and are effectively thrown under the bus. Massive disappointment.
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by PiEdude on Tue Mar 29, 2011 9:18 pm

In the movie, Rasq, there was only one person onboard the...whatever it is that they ended up building.

I read the plot of the book on Wikipedia a while ago, and I do wish they'd included the final twist Rasq was talking about. That particular part of the ending is what made me respect Carl Sagan, and the reason I use a quote from him in my sig.
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Re: And this month, I have read...

Post by Divine Virus on Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:53 pm

I don't really recall ever watching the movie but I do remember it...

I know what I'm watching tonnight on NetFlix.
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