The Andromeda Strain
by Michael Crichton
Review by Linda Marie Schumacher
Harper Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061703157
Date: 01 November 2008 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Yes, I realize that I am one of the few people on the planet who did not read The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton decades ago. I loved it. I can see why the story has had all its success. A strange organism falls to earth and threatens to kill all humans. See how the earth fights back.
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, is about a satellite that falls to earth and contains a virus deadly to humans. The satellite is a part of a government project to search for extraterrestrial life. Consequently, the government has already established a response team and built a huge research facility to deal with a biological contamination should one occur. Fortunately, the satellite lands in a remote area in the desert southwest, but the local townspeople who find the satellite either die instantly of shortly after. The response team is able to recover the satellite, using their state of the art biological decontamination clothing. They quickly move the satellite to the research facility to determine how to cure the virus, and prevent any more death.
The science in the book is extremely interesting. A lot of discussion occurs over the design of the research facility, the decontamination procedures and all the methods employed to prevent spread of the contamination. I found the writing style very pleasant. The technical aspects are there, but not overpowering. I have read techno-thrillers that really tax your brain to understand what is going on, but this one does not. The writing just flows.
I had to put myself back into 1969, the year the book was written, when I read about the technology. It seems pretty common today, but for its era, the technology is highly advanced. All of the research equipment is remotely operated, to prevent spread of the agent under analysis and to contain it should a spill occur. It made me laugh a bit too. Based on my technical background, I know that the more gizmos and fancy features that you put into a system, the more difficult it is to operate and maintain. Of course, everything worked flawlessly in the novel. I also had to make myself understand 1969 dollars. The author talks about the cost of the equipment in various places. In 2009, the money seems reasonable and even a little low, but in 1969 dollars, it is very expensive.
I cannot reveal the ending in my review, but I can say that a lot of the story surrounds the cycle of life. It discusses the way organisms grow and develop and how they relate to one another in terms of survival. The research developments and the ending flow very well with that thought.
I also enjoyed the "odd man" criterion. The entire research facility is built over a nuclear weapon that can be detonated to stop the spread of contamination. The team has one "odd man", whose selection was based on a series of traits that are known to produce a desired response in a particular situation. The "Odd Man" is the only one able to stop the nuclear blast once the self-destruct sequence is initiated. It makes for a nice plotline.
Of course, I rented the movie too. There are two movies that I found. One made in 1971, shortly after the novel was released in 1969. The other was made in 2002. The 1971 version is much more true to the book, but I enjoyed them both.