The Andromeda Strain

One night, over a small town in Arizona, a streak appears across the sky. Soon after, almost everybody in the town is lying in the streets, dead, as if they fell and never got back up. The Andromeda Strain, written by Michael Crichton, is a complex story about a biological disaster and the team called in to fix it. It may sound like an exciting read, but it is anything but.

The Andromeda Strain is based around a five-day scientific crisis in what seems to be the 1960’s. After a satellite sent into space for a scientific study crashes down in a small town in Arizona, some military personnel make a shocking discovery: everybody in the town is dead, just lying in the street, or has committed suicide. Well, almost everybody. Two people were found alive, an old man and a screaming infant.

After this strange discovery, the book transforms from a science fiction novel to a medical drama. Almost all of the rest of book is written about five men working furiously  and constantly in an underground lab to discover how the organism works, how it got into the spacecraft, and why those people are still alive. Unfortunately, the only interruptions to this incredibly boring period are the introduction of a few vaguely described scientific terms. Finally, in the last thirty pages or so, all of the action that was missing before suddenly appears, when a seal breaks and the whole lab is contaminated.The story culminates with a race against time to save the lab, the scientists, and possibly the world.

Using complicated scientific terms in a science-fiction novel is a big gamble, and it didn’t pay off for Michael Crichton. He left many of these words largely unexplained, such as staphylococcus and forceps, leaving the reader in the dark about what was going on. Also, by compressing all of the excitement into the last few pages, he leaves the reader bored for much of the story and completely overwhelmed once the action ramps up. Finally, many of the references used in the book are hard to understand, because the book was written in 1969. The old age of his books work out for the better in his other stories, namely the Jurassic Park series, because it’s funny to read about somebody marveling at a room full of computers that are less powerful than what we carry around in our pockets today. However, it doesn’t add nearly as much to the Andromeda Strain, because it is impossible to tell if all of the references to other people and discoveries before the crisis are real or simply made up.

In conclusion, The Andromeda Strain left me wishing for more clarification and action. I didn’t know what half of the procedures were, and I was simply bored for most of the book. There wasn’t even a motto to take away, much less one to live by. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anybody except someone with a PHD in the use of an electron microscope. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make any sense.