I read the first couple chapters of this book in high school and was intrigued. But I never finished it. It left an impression on me for years to the point where I thought I had read the whole story. Needless to say I had a bit of a shock coming.
My dad did not like this book, and I can understand why. But after I finished it I couldn’t stop thinking about it for three days straight. Incidentally, I found a quick review on the back from C.S. Lewis that helped me process:
“There has been nothing like it for years; partly for the actual invention, but partly because here we meet a modern author who understands that there may be things that have a higher claim on humanity than its own survival.”
There are so many things about this book that are unique: the first alien contact, how Asimov treats paranormal science, his ideas about a “utopian society,” and how he deals with humanity in the end.
My dad didn’t like it because of its humanistic philosophies, and yet I felt like Asimov often pointed to something greater: biblical imagery and inexplicable forces that might be called supernatural. I felt like he asked more questions than he answered. And there were a lot of points that he made (if for different reasons) that I found myself agreeing with.
But I will admit that there were aspects of the book that were strange, haunting, and even a little disturbing. It isn’t exactly a book that I would recommend to many of my friends. And I always have mixed feelings when I think about it. But there is no denying that it was thought provoking. Whether Clark was trying to explain religion in scientific terms and therefore undermine it, or factor it into an empirical worldview as something we don’t understand I still somehow appreciate that he emphasized there is a lot we don’t understand as humans, and how often our petty conflicts and priorities are insignificant. We often miss the mark as humans because there is something bigger going on in the universe.
That was the message I appreciated from this book. But the telling of it was a little strange. Brave it if you want. 😉