The Andromeda Strain

Read this on a flight from San Francisco to Newark. The plot revolves around a specific strain of “bacteria” discovered from the upper atmosphere which ends up killing hella people. I kind of love how Crichton goes off on these long tangents trying to describe various protocols and processes and thoughts that the researchers have when trying to find out how to beat the disease.

I think The Andromeda Strain is a pretty great example of hard science fiction done right; after all, I’m fairly certain it was one of the pioneers of the genre. The author spends lots of time trying to ensure that the science fiction he comes up with has some basis in reality, and he definitely gives the reader some great analogies to understand some of the more advanced concepts that he writes about in the book. It’s great how he takes this common trope of “mindless killing bug threatening the world” and takes it one step further with that primary grounding in reality.

However, that means that the book focuses mostly on the research and scientific aspects of the crisis, rather than any interesting political or social fallout that might have come up as a result of the situation. Definitely a decision that the author had to make while writing it, but it’s so short that I think he could have fairly captured those aspects of it without making the book too long. I would have loved something a little longer, just because the setup and exposition was so long.

It turns out the book was published in 1969, so the primitive notion of “computers” and people using telephones and stuff really caught me off guard. At one point, one of the main characters freaks out because the computer starts talking to him with prerecorded messages. Isn’t it crazy how far we’ve come in terms of technology? Talking to your computer is like a regular and expected thing nowadays. Regardless of whether the technology in the novel is dated, I think most of it isn’t affected by age and still shines through.

Overall, definitely a great book - I don’t think I’ve read something this compelling in a while, though I have to say that the characters are largely forgettable and boring; the real plot lies in the action, suspense, and thrill of exploring the unknown.


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