Audiobook Review: Cosmos by Carl Sagan

When the thirteen-episode series Cosmos first appeared in 1980 on PBS, many fans marveled at the breathtaking visual effects that allowed co-creator and host Carl Sagan to virtually stroll through the sciences that describe our galaxy. When Random House concurrently published the book version of Cosmos for the literary audience, its popularity skyrocketed, propelling the book to the top of the charts. Having both forms of media covered, Sagan quickly became somewhat of a rock-star within the school of science.

Here we are 30+ years later and yet another form of media is opening yet more doors. Published by Brilliance Audio and marketed through the Amazon Audible format, Cosmos by Carl Sagan reemerges as an audiobook that is sure to rekindle the flame of wonder as well as introduce a remarkable collection of information to a new generation of inquiring minds.

Some added bonuses that did not appear in the original first print edition found on my personal bookshelf make this a welcomed “addition” for those who already own this work. In addition to the original introduction written by Carl Sagan (read here by Seth MacFarlane), there is a new forward written and read by the author’s wife and Cosmos series co-creator and producer Ann Druyan. Fans will also hear a thought provoking essay written and re-counted by the renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

As for the body of work, the thirteen chapters are broken into :

The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean – an introduction to the vastness of space

One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue – evolution and the creation of life

Harmony of the Worlds – considers astrology and the cultural study of space

Heaven and Hell – the impact of (pun intended) space objects and the role they play

Blues for a Red Planet – a closeup look at the planet Mars and steps man has taken to study it.

Travellers’ Tales – What the Voyager probe has provided for science

The Backbone of Night – the study of stars throughout history

Journeys in Space and Time – changes in space over time and theoretical possibilities

The Lives of the Stars – elemental study of the universe

The Edge of Forever – the formation of galaxies including dimensional, finite, and infinite possibilities

The Persistence of Memory – this is more of a closer look at intelligence, both mortal and artificial

Encyclopedia Galactica – a look into the probability of life elsewhere

Who Speaks for Earth – a reflection on the future of humanity and its role in the universe

COSMOS 1980 book cover

For something known for its visual splendor, removing all imagery and relying solely on audio content is quite a gamble, but one that pays off here. Sagan had an artistic knack for explaining the elements of the cosmos in both layman’s and scientific terms, to the point it sounded poetic, allowing the audience to experience the author’s knowledge as well as learn about it. But even in text, sometimes the complexity of the subject can get lost in the necessary terminology. This is where the soothing voice of LeVar Burton comes into play. The popular actor and author’s obvious love for literature comes through (the long running Reading Rainbow series had encouraged generations to read and experience the magic of literature). More than just a narration, Burton often draws on Sagan’s poetic words and allows the author’s first-person compassion for exploring the universe to come through.

Having read the original publication many years ago and often returned to the book for both inspiration and as an informative fact-checker, this latest audio format is like reminiscing with an old friend. The Audible publication of Cosmos by Carl Sagan is a fine companion to the hard copy and an even better introduction for those new to the work.

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