Here's what I think. I think that in this day and age, if you can come to something--whether it's a TV show, movie, book, video, whatever--waaay late in the game, far after everyone else has seen it and declared themselves over with it, and you have managed to miraculously arrive at that thing without it having been spoiled for you somehow, you should get an award of some kind. That is what I think.
SO. Zosia mentioned that she loved this book. I had just finished Solaris, which seemed to share some themes with this, so I got it from the library. All I knew about it was that there was a movie version. That most people didn't like? For some reason? And that Jodie Foster was in it. So that was it, as far as baggage I brought to this. And I'm so glad, because the book is awesome, and I loved it.
It's not *totally* perfect. The science vs religion stuff is a little too pat in places. But it's well written: not just the science-y parts (although they were--Sagan does a great job of setting up and casting light on what are probably extremely complicated ideas here and there) but also the emotion-y parts. Total tears in certain places. That perspective, about how small we all are in the grand scheme of things, and given that, what needs to happen, what do you need to overcome, in order to see life as something worth living? I feel that. What ultimately matters, is a question that matters to me. And this book attacks that question elegantly.
What else should I say about this. Something else you should know about me: "Signs" is one of my favorite movies. YES the one with Mel Gibson. YES I KNOW you hate that M Night director guy. All I'm saying is look: if you can show me a movie that does a better job of wrestling with the question of whether or not there's any meaning in the universe, I would genuinely love for you to tell me about it. This book approaches that question (and it's kind of an audacious question to approach right? Kind of THE big question?) from a different angle, but it's so, so good. I love the way Sagan sets up the questions, I love the debates involved and the way the differing opinions wrestle and dovetail each other, and I love which direction the compass points to in the end.