Alien Life. Often thought of as little green men with antenna or slim grey dudes in flying saucers. Sometimes coming in peace, sometimes coming to destroy. But what if alien life isn’t what we expected? What if it wasn’t even something we can see? That is what Michael Crichton’s 1979 book The Andromeda Strain encourages you to think about.
When the entire population of a small town becomes victim to an alien virus due to poor sterilization of returning probes from outer space, a contingency team of scientists race to figure out how to stop the spread of the virus. Before entering a five level process of decontamination, they enter the town to gather as much information as they can. They find that most of the 48 dead bodies died from instant blood clotting, and that those who didn’t, went crazy and commited suicide. They also find 2 survivors, an old man and an infant. After decontamination and doing a series of tests on animals, monkeys and other animals, they discover the cause of the deaths, but also discover that the virus in the air had mutated. It was no longer dangerous to humans, and was exiting the atmosphere.
This novel became an instant hit and best seller. It was adapted into a move in 1971 and a miniseries by Riddley and Tony Scott. Despite it being a highly respected science fiction novel, I did not think it was very good. I felt that the 5 scientist team lacked much character. In the beginning we are introduced to the characters and given their backstory. After that point I felt like it could have read “and then one character did this, and one character did that, and then this character and this character did this together” it didn’t matter who was doing what. I also felt the scientific explanation was very extensive and thorough, but was just words I skimmed over and took me out of the story. (Props to Crichton though, the end of the book is chalk full of references, this guy did his homework). Everything sounded very plausible, but I didn’t care to read it. And I don’t know how they made a movie and miniseries out of it, probably half the book is scientific ramble.
The beginning and the end were quite interesting, and solid storytelling, the best parts of the book. Action packed, suspensful, set things up and for the most part tied them up, but I did feel that the revelation that the virus was no longer a threat to anyone made me feel as though the whole story had been a waste of time. I felt the same as I did in the newest Godzilla movie when everything that the humans did made no difference to the monster at all, and that they could have saved me a lot of time by not including the story. All that being said, I never found myself hating the book or dreading returning to it. It wasn’t bad, just not as good as I had expected. I give it 3/5 stars.
Thanks for reading. What do you think of the book? Let me know in the comments section.
Image from Wikipedia