Book Review – The Andromeda Strain

Hi everyone. I haven’t done a book review in a while, mostly because everything I’ve read recently hasn’t excited me, but this is a good one.

Since most of you are probably familiar with this book, it hardly needs much of an introduction. I was browsing the shelves at the local bookstore and grabbed a copy after sifting through countless “zombie” or “quirky space captain” bios. I figured that I would go with an author that I enjoyed reading as a child.

There are actually a lot of books by Micheal Crichton that I have on my “to read” list, and after finishing this one, they will be easier to pick up. I can drop this book very easily into the almost five stars category, though 4.5 might be more appropriate. Read on for reasons why, or just check out the book on Amazon by clicking on the cover picture.

First off. I hate the title of this book. I’ve always hated the title, hence why I never bothered to pick it up before. I’ve also not seen the movie, but I’m interested in taking the look. I realize that toward the end of the sixties, space stuff was a very common fodder material to discuss around the dinner table. With the moon missions, and the rapid advances in rocketry, I dare say the space race was on the minds of most people, especially in the US and Russia.

Consequently, the Andromeda Galaxy, being our nearest galactic neighbor (not counting the clouds of orbiting stars that circle our own galaxy) was also likely a subject of interest. On a dark night, it can be detected with the naked eye, and it is a “faint fuzzy” that’s accessible by just about anyone with a simple pair of binoculars. That said, unless I’m missing some Greek reference here, Andromeda has nothing to do with this book…at all.

That aside, the name is used in the book to describe an extremely lethal and potentially contagious infection that has dropped on the tiny town of Piedmont, Arizona, population 48. A couple of satellite recovery guys are shocked to find that the town has been devastated by something while traveling through, and suspect that the space probe they are out to find has brought something back from the edge of space. Something horrible.

In true Crichton fashion, a team is assembled to investigate the disaster, containing single representatives from several fields, and the terror begins. I don’t mind this trope with his work, because he’s good at pulling it off.

Most of the book is incredibly engaging, the level of science knowledge is just right to get the idea across without clubbing you over the head with technical details, and everything is graspable to the common reader, while giving us “science folk” plenty to consider. Some of these ideas are dated now, but it’s an old story. That’s going to happen.

One thing I really loved about this book was the front matter. The introduction to the book is constructed as part of the story, and I thought that was particularly clever. It also references several sources at the back, including government papers and scientific dictations. This gives the book a feel of authenticity that adds to the narrative. It feels like you are reading about a real event, and that is incredibly engaging. I even had to flip to the copyright page to double check that this was a work of fiction. Brilliant way to set up a story, similar in format to “The War of the Worlds” idea. Clever ways to make a story seem more real always catch my attention.

What I didn’t like was the ending. You know how sometimes, you watch a movie and there seems to be some clever way out of the whole mess at the end? Yeah, that kind of thing. The ending does tie back to the story very well, and nothing unbelievable occurs. There’s no magic built into the ending to save a lost narrative, it all fits, but it just felt a little flat to me, and somewhat unnecessary. Like it was a last ditch ploy to force extra tension into the final few chapters. IMO The last few chapters needed no extra tension. He could have closed this out any way that he liked, and it would still be a good book. Sometimes, a boring ending just works for me, but if you need a little suspense at the end, well, he’s got some in store for you, even if you can see it coming from a mile away.

That said, the last chapters aren’t even necessary, in a certain respect. The tension of the rest of the story, like I said, from discovery to conclusion, are excellent. This tale is believable, and it’s downright scary to think about. I literally caught a chill at the start of one chapter. And that’s a rare event for me.

My only other complaint is a tiny one. There’s a little cliffhanger sentence at the end of each chapter, that in my humble opinion, could be done without. These telly little fragments annoyed me, but they are such a small detail in contrast to the larger work, that they didn’t pull me out of the story very long.

Overall, this is an incredible story. If it feels like I’m ripping it apart, I’m really not. But to be thorough, I have to nitpick to give a review. As usual, if you think all of these things are nitpicky nonsense, then it’s a good idea to pick up this book. TODAY! If you’re a fan of Crichton books and the subsequent movies, then you will definitely enjoy this one.

Marty out.

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Author: spottedgeckgo

Writer. Making my living on my pen, and working to turn a raw chunk of land into a future homestead.

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