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A for Andromeda Hardcover – June, 1962
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The story starts with Fleming, a radio astronomer, detecting an intelligent signal from space. It is discovered that squeezed in between the simple signal is an enormous amount of information. When decoded it is shown to be the plans for a powerful superconducting computer. OK obviously it looks like Contact ripped some of this off. So the govt decides to build the thing. They find that there is extra data which is intended to initialise the computer. After it is turned on the pace really starts to pick up. Slowly communication is establised. Then it finds out what we are made of and creates a living creature (well tells the humans how to make it), then eventually after a very suspicious suicide (a young girl seemingly hypnotised electocutes herself on two bars that project from the computer). The next thing we see is that the computer has analysed this girl and gives the instructions to create a new living creature , which turns out to be a clone of the girl. They christen her Andromeda.
Now the pace picks up. Always the scale seems to be expanding. The computer's influence is soon national, then global. Fleming becomes more and more convinced that it is evil. But you never actually know, and you don't know if Andromeda is human or something else, it is not certain what the purpose is ... but there is a purpose.
My appreciation of the book was influenced by the TV series so you might find it dry. There was a sequel called "Andromeda Breakthrough" which was nowhere near as interesting, though it did finally resolve the issue of "what was the motive" and "is it evil".
This is a great story, in part because it is so realistic. Andromeda is about 1,000,000 light years away, so two-way communication with someone there would take too long. But to send instructions for building something to talk to is better. This inspired Carl Sagan's Contact, which is longer and more complicated but inferior in inspiration.
The characters are also fairly believable: the protagonist bucks all authority and is an alcoholic; the protagonist's girlfriend deceives him and feels terrible about it; the "scientists" who became mere bureaucrats decades earlier in their lives, and the earthy female biologist contribute to the background.
Another thing that makes this book so fun to read is that it was published in 1962, so all of the computer talk is very outmoded. It's so charming to read an author who believes he has to explain to the reader what a computer program is!
Despite, all this, in my opinion the book is fatally flawed with almost countless problems and plotholes. For one thing, the espionage side element is generally punishing to read through; Frederick Forsyth or John le Carre, it is not. The evil agent smokes a cigar, rides in a limo, owns a yacht, and shoots from said yacht. The security at the top secret facility is ultra lax; there is practically not even the pretense of any counterintelligence measures, despite the supposedly precarious world situation and Britain being practically in a state of siege. The main character should have been banned from the base several times, instead he is allowed to walk around, right up to end, when he destroys everything.
To add insult to injury, the book closes with two superbly gullible assumptions.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In my opinion one of the best ever written sci-fi books. Scientifically correct and far-sighted for the time of writing.Published 3 months ago by Lorenz Born
Terrific sf written with respect of scientific knowledge.Published 8 months ago by Louis Sant' Angelo
Fred Hoyle wrote some of the best science fiction that is based on real science. It is too believable. Too bad he's gone.Published on December 26, 2013 by William E. Ferreira
I'm late to the party since I've just discovered Fred Hoyle's science fiction. What a glorious treat to read this wonderful story played out with inside information about the... Read morePublished on April 19, 2013 by Joanna Poppink
I like reading old science fiction novels because they give us a perspective on what people back then thought of the future and the things they hoped for and feared. Read morePublished on May 23, 2009 by Shi-Hsia Hwa
Message babe from space.
Astronomers detect a signal that they realise is information, not your random junk they usually get. Read more
I remember reading this as a teenager, and thinking it was the most exciting book I had ever read. Forty years later, I decided I had to read it again. Read morePublished on January 18, 2007 by John Blackwell
Good to bring back 'the old days' of when this series was on TV. Also good to see just how writing has advanced in such a short time - Fred Hoyle was then seen as a writer worth... Read morePublished on January 4, 2007 by Rodney G. Stevenson