Customer Reviews


61 Reviews
5 star:
 (37)
4 star:
 (14)
3 star:
 (4)
2 star:
 (3)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Final thoughts
Published not long after his death, this--Sagan's last book--is a collection of essays on a variety of subjects having in common a palpable urgency traceable to both the state of the planet and the state of Sagan's health, both perceived as perilous. Besides Sagan's distinctive blend of stark optimism and stern alarm, and his splendid rationality, one is struck by a kind...
Published on March 30 2002 by Dennis Littrell

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A duff note to go out on...
I'm a big fan of Carl Sagan. I loved the 'Cosmos' series, I thought 'The Demon Haunted World' was an outstanding treatise on really important subject, and I really dug the movie 'Contact'. I have only respect for his views the role and value of science and rational thought in everyone's daily life. So I looked forward to 'Billions and Billions', his last work before...
Published on April 28 2000 by Olly Buxton


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Final thoughts, March 30 2002
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
Published not long after his death, this--Sagan's last book--is a collection of essays on a variety of subjects having in common a palpable urgency traceable to both the state of the planet and the state of Sagan's health, both perceived as perilous. Besides Sagan's distinctive blend of stark optimism and stern alarm, and his splendid rationality, one is struck by a kind of anger in his tone, as though he has grown impatient with the stupidities of humankind. Thus one reads in the essay on abortion these bitter words: "There is no right to life in any society on Earth today... We raise farm animals for slaughter; destroy forests; pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there; kill deer and elk for sport, leopards for their pelts, and whales for fertilizer; entrap dolphins, gasping and writhing, in great tuna nets; club seal pups to death... What is (allegedly) protected is not life, but human life." (p. 166)
What he is against in these essays, as his widow, Ann Druyan, notes in her Epilogue on page 228, are "the forces of superstition and fundamentalism." Sagan is preeminently the champion of education and reason as the means to better our life, and the implacable enemy of ignorance. (For "superstition and fundamentalism," read "ignorance," plain and simple.) In some respects this book is a continuation of his volume from the year before, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, but the emphasis here is on the problems confronting us and what can be done about them. In particular, Sagan confronts the depletion of the ozone layer, global warming, pollution, the threat of nuclear war, overpopulation, etc. He asks the question (the title of Part II), "What Are Conservatives Conserving?" and gives the answer, their short-sighted bottom line. His arguments are ingenious and interesting to read as one observes how hard he is working to persuade us to take care of ourselves and our planet home. He compares the warnings of modern science with those of Cassandra who had the gift of prophesy but the curse of never being believed, science becoming in this sense both Cassandra and the Oracle at Delphi, misunderstood and misinterpreted by our policy makers, whom he likens to Croesus, the rich king who salivated at the prospect of a mighty empire being destroyed only to find that it was his own. As Pogo observed, "We have met the enemy and he is us." One senses too that Sagan is projecting his concern that he himself is in danger of becoming a Cassandra.
Certainly, in reading this book, one senses the personality of Carl Sagan come to life. His wide knowledge as a scientist, and his influence as a public spokesperson for science and for the environment and for all the life on this planet, are manifest. His tendency to preach and guide, his absolute desire to use his celebrity for the common good (and to scold) are evident. He mingles hope with despair; he loves humankind, yet despises what humankind does. He sees our capacity to love and help one another as our saving grace, but cannot help but recall and recount the horrors we have visited upon one another and on our fellow creatures. He sees the planet as one, as Gaia (although he does not use that word) with its organisms cooperating with one another for mutual survival. He writes, "The inclination to cooperate has been painfully extracted through the evolutionary process. Those organisms that did not cooperate, that did not work with one another, died. Cooperation is encoded in the survivors' genes." (p. 67) (Incidentally, this is a clear statement for the idea of group selection in evolution. Dawkins, et al., take note.) His writing reveals a man who always tried to do his best, and was perhaps his own sternest critic. He recalls for all of us, "wincing recollections of past faux pas" in the chapter on the environment where he tries to persuade us to take a stance "Somewhere between cheerful dolts and nervous worrywarts..." (p. 75)
I hear the man and identify with his concerns, and I know myself that I cannot make up my mind on whether to be cheerful about our prospects or to despair. I "solve" this problem by realizing that all species eventually go extinct, and that somebody or something "better" than us might follow, or to understand that we are just a tiny phase in the cosmic process of Becoming.
More to the point, I would hope to be just one fraction as worthwhile to my fellow humans as was, and is, and will continue to be, Carl Sagan, a brilliant man of great humanity who is sorely missed. To read him is to experience the best of humanity. He, like science, is a candle in the dark.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read, Dec 23 2003
By 
V. Balasubrahmanyam (Bangalore, India) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
This is the first book by Sagan that I've read. Simply said, it's written brilliantly ! I was amazed when I read the chapter on abortion. Sagan leads you to start thinking about issues in a different plane altogether. His systematic, analytical & scientific approach to solving problems would help anyone with a little logical bent of mind. The chapter on '20th century' seemed to cover environmental issues (again !) though Sagan had dealt with those exhaustively in earlier chapters.
All in all, definitely worth reading. Pity that we don't have him around to share his views on what is going on in today's world !
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Open Minds... READ IT., Feb. 14 2003
By 
ectron (Ceiba, PR United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
I think Brett Williams felt attacked by this book. It is certainly true that it challenges a lot of modern ideas about the world and how we all fit into it. It is jam packed with facts to back up his thoughts. This is not a book I would reccommend for my parents generation- the sixty something's and up- but I wish that GW Bush would take a good hard look at it someday really soon before it's too late.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Useful and readable., May 23 2002
By 
Benjamin Thompson (Orlando, FL) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
I've used this book in a unique way, being able to site it in just about every paper I wrote for a science class this year. Sagan covers many of the pressing environmental and ethical dilemmas facing us in the modern world. It's a very readable book that makes the case for being an environmentalist without becoming dogmatic. Sagan also outlines the significance of exponential numbers in the universe and everyday life, with fun and interesting examples. A very useful book to have on your shelf.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars A book with perspective, May 21 2002
By 
Sergio A. Salazar Lozano (Tampico, Tamaulipas Mexico) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
Carl Sagan was surely a man with perspective. He was involved in great scientific teams and proyects, but he was not only a Scientist doing science in isolation, he had deep concerns in the world he was leaving. Being this his posthumous book (he was actually dying, and died without finishing it, his widow ,Chemist by the way, Ann Druyan finished it for him) he shows his concerns on ecology, politics, wars, to name a few. You should read this book if you share his concerns, it gives you perspective on this issues and helps you make judgements based on evidence.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars on a more philosophical note..., April 24 2002
By 
B. P. Hayek (State of Iowa, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
In this work Carl Sagan approaches many of the more philisophical questions that are begged by pondering the nature of the cosmos and the human condidtion. Although the topics vary a bit, given Sagan's body of work and knowlege, this book gives us a peek at what Sagan only previously suggests in his other works - what it feels like to be human. The final chapter is written just at the conclusion of Sagan's life, and is as powerful an account of what it is like to be staring down death as you're likely ever find - powerful beyond words.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Sagan's as brilliant as ever, even while facing death, March 14 2002
By 
Thomas S Roche (San Francisco CA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
This is an unbelievably moving and brilliant book. I wasn't prepared for what an environmentalist Sagan was or how much of his last book would be devoted to those causes, but it was a welcome surprise, especially since he comes to environmentalism from a place, quite simply, of understanding the human being's place in the cosmos. Sagan doesn't believe in man's place being at the top of creation -- on the contrary, he asserts that human beings are a transitional step in evolution, and if we don't destroy ourselves, there are still more strange and fascinating creatues left to evolve from us. What really makes the book a stunning series of insights, though, is the closing essay "In the Shadow of the Valley," Sagan's first-person account of his struggle with cancer. As he continues to fight bravely and, nonetheless, closes in on death, he shows an admirable ability to embrace the rational world he's known so well, rather than fleeing into superstition. His wife, Ann Druyan, made me weep with her inspiring and sad account of Carl's final hours, which serves as an afterword for the book. Truly an amazing achievement, to look in the face of death, without fear, believing that the only afterlife comes in the way people remember you. Magnificent and terrifying.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Sagan, a green proponent, Feb. 19 2002
By 
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
This book was admittedly not what I expected, but I was nonetheless pleasantly surprised. When first reading this book Sagan essay's offers insight into more mathematical and scientific insights. However, the book began to discuss the power of exponential growth which has led to the fear of overpopulation. Overpopulation led to the discussion of environmentalism and abortion. I never realized what a green proponent Sagan is, and it is heartening to know that a popular scientific mind is touting these issues.
Those of you that watched the Cosmos series and enjoyed his work will also enjoy educating yourself on microbiological ideas and insights. The book is very readable and designed to be read for by a layperson. I hope that people that voted republican this year has a clearer insight on how the Republican Party is for big business and not for the future, nor for your children's well being. What surprises me most is when we vote in a president that is in the back pocket of big oil, and most people that voted for him have little to gain except for a few bucks on tax decreases and whole lot more CFCs.
This book and Sagan's essasys are especially pertinent when Bush and his hacks want to roll back the reductions on CFCs for his coporate buddies in Texas. Read this book, learn from an educated scientific scholar and don't listen to political rhetoric from a greedy elistist like our current president, GW Bush.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars I'll get right to the point here..., Oct. 30 2001
By 
Jeffrey J. Sanders "psychedelic tunesmith" (www.mountainmirrors.com) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
This book blew my mind. I've read it 3 times, each time learning something new.
This is a complete mind-ride of a book covering a plethora of intriguing topics- explained in an intriguing-and easy to grasp- fashion.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Great variety of subjects..., July 21 2001
This review is from: Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (Paperback)
This is the first nonfiction book I have read by Carl Sagan, although I have read one of his fiction works, Contact. In this book, Dr. Sagan offers his opinions and thoughts (although, backed by facts) on many, many different subjects, including abortion, the environment, politics, religion, the military, and many others. The author is an atheist, and the book has atheistical implications throughout, but he also treats religion and the followers with a great deal of respect. I myself am a Christian and did not feel he was attempting to push his beliefs on me any more so than people of other religions would.
I strongly recommend this book for the scientist and non-scientist alike. It has a lot of scientific topics in it, but they are dealt with using low-level science that is easily understood. I found the sections on abortion and the military particularly interesting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First
ARRAY(0xb393f8e8)

This product

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium
CDN$ 21.00 CDN$ 15.16
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews