31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2000
This isn't my first Michael Crichton book, but i think it's the best. I've read Jurassic Park, and the Lost World before this, and they were fairly good. But this book topped both of them. It was assigned summer reading for me this year, and i thought, "Oh great, another boring book that i have to read." But when i started reading it, I found myself reading for 2 hours just striving to complete the next chapter.(I'm a slow reader) The words that he uses are sometimes hard to read, and i pulled out a dictionary for all the ones that i couldn't figure out. I don't really like reading books, but this book has changed my mind on reading. It was so suspenseful in the end that i found i chewed my fingernails down to stubs when i finished reading. Anyone who loves suspense will be over powered by the amount of it generated by this book.
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 1999
Michael Crichton must be a psychic. Thirty years before researchers discovered the effects of microorganisms, Crichton predicted a virus just as deadly. The Andromeda Strain is a classic, terrifying novel of biophysics. The way Crichton combines facts and fiction results in a masterpiece. With the exception of some intense scientific vocabulary, the descriptive language used by Crichton in this novel is brilliant.
When an unmanned satellite returns to earth lethally contaminated, four American scientists are ordered to a secret lab to work against the threat of a worldwide epidemic. There are no villains in this novel - only the microscopic organisms of earth's extinction. This is a perfect story line, written with immense detail. Crichton does a superb job of setting the scene and describing the characters. He leaves his reader not wanting to stop, having great cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. The suspense builds inevitably to a heart-stopping conclusion. It is an intelligent and tightly plotted suspense-thriller.
Many of Crichton's works masterfully combine fact and fiction. The Andromeda Strain is no exception as the scientific elements are expertly interwoven with the fictional world of underground laboratories and secret agents. Crichton's facts about bacteria and viruses are right on - he goes as far as using quotes from professors and scientists as well as diagrams to support his arguments. When he switches to fictional mode, Crichton does not lose a step. His theories about government testing grounds and secret government projects, written thirty years prior, do not seem at all unrealistic in today's high-tech world.
Although the novel grabs the reader's attention from the very first page with its crisp prose, there are some minor impediments in that this is a highly technical narrative, centering on complex issues of science. Even Crichton, in his acknowledgments preceding the novel, apologizes "...if the reader must occasionally struggle through an arid passage of technical detail." Fortunately, Crichton was also able to mix up his writing style. Here is an example of a beautifully written verse:
"He often argued that human intelligence was more trouble than it was worth. It was more destructive than creative, more confusing than revealing, more discouraging than satisfying, more spiteful than charitable."
This passage clearly shows how diverse Crichton can be in his writing. The metaphors he uses fit perfectly with the plot of the story at the time this passage is used. Crichton constantly switches from technical to figurative language as if to cater his novel to all of his readers.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2000
The back cover starts: "Five prominent biophysicists give the US government an urgent warning: sterilisation procedures for returning space probes may be inadequate to guarantee uncontaminated re-entry to the atmosphere." Biophysicists, right? One can hardly find a more appropriate reading to read on the train, when I was travelling to the 3rd European biophysics congress in Munich earlier this month.
This novel will teach you that the life on earth was in early February 1967 close to disaster comparable to the impact of Chixculub meteorite 65 million years ago. An US space probe, Scoop VII, brought with it a highly virulent and pathogenous alien life form from the orbit, before it crashed into the Arizona desert. After wreaking havoc in a small Arizona town, the space probe is transferred into the ultra-secret high-security US government lab in Nevada, built just a couple of months before to prevent dispersion of toxic extraterrestrial agents. Here, a group of five scientists led by a Nobel prize winner, bacteriologist Jeremy Stone, starts a race with time. What exactly is this alien life form? By which mechanism does it affect human body? Under what conditions does it multiply? How can we stop it before it wipes away the human population?
The novel contains quite a bit of technical details - it's science fiction after all, right? - where Crichton will pause and explain with a patience and persistence of a good-humoured teacher. So in case you didn't know what proteins are and what they are made from; or how electron microscope operates; or what can cause blood acidity in a patient - you will learn it all here.
It would be interesting to know how many scientists today were influenced by this novel to pursue a career in science. Because, after all, what Crichton writes is mostly how a scientific experiment is conducted. OK, the method in biosciences have advanced somewhat from the late sixties, but the spirit is still here. So while you are unlikely to encounter the situation when you have a few hours to save the humankind, scientific research never loses its share of excitement, either.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2001
This book is the best, and I could never put it down! It describes the search for an organism that is killing people. The way Crichton portrays all of his characters is magnificent, which is why I really connected with this book. I felt as if I was the missing scientist from the team! I sincerely liked the way Crichton concealed the identity of the person who deciphered the mystery. I genuinely enjoyed reading about the long hours spent down in Level V of the Wildfire base. This is where Hall took care of Mr. Jackson and the baby, where Burton performed his autopsies, and where Stone and Leavitt worked on finding the organism. The other part I thoroughly enjoyed was reading about Burton and Stone while they were in Piedmont, looking for the satellite. What they found was so startling, that you hardly new what to expect next. I really believe you should buy this book, because it is such a wonderful scientific mystery!
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2002
This book describes a fictious encounter with microbes from beyond. The men sent to recover a sattelite from where it has landed in this small town wonder why there are no lights at all in a town at ten-oclock at night. They enter the town and within five minutes are dead.
Next we encounter a number of scientists in different locations as they are alerted to the situation and sent to the government labratory that has been prepared for this situation, and the steps that they take to analyze and isolate the organism. The lab is the perfect place to study such an organism: it is even equipped with a nuclear self-destruct in case things go wrong.....
Mr. Crichton tells a simple but logical tale in this volume and as he often does in his books, makes it hard to distinguish between the real elements of science that he uses for the basis of the premise, and the fictious facts he makes to take the premise to its conclusion. This is classic fiction, and the fact that it is over thirty years old takes nothing from it. Definitely worth the read.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2005
I really love later Crichton, but this one was one of his earlier ones, and you can tell. It starts out VERY intriguing, and sets the reader up to keep the pages turning. However, towards the end he seems to try to wrap it up too quickly, and he left me saying, "That's it?" "State of Fear" and "Prey" hooked me in and left me saying, "WOW!" at the end. So I was a little disappointed. But still a good book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This is the first Crichton book that I ever read. The book is a thrilling account of the introduction of a space-borne bacteria into the earths atmosphere. The bacteria wipes everyone in a small town except a drunk and a crying baby. The book is a life-like account of what the scientists found, how they tried to find what the bacteria is, why these two people survived, and how do they find a cure. I felt the fictional technology was incredible by todays standards, much less in 1969 when this book was originally copywrited.
As an Engineer, I found this book absolutely awsome. The way the book was written in general was excellent. They way the story was layed out for the reader made it so that I never wanted to put it down. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes science/science fiction based work.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2003
I've enjoyed a number of Michael Crichton's novels, finding his erudition and dedicated research and some of his philosophy in sympathy with my own interests and concerns. In looking through a list of his books, I found that I had read most of the later works but had missed one of his very first, The Andromeda Strain. I decided to correct the omission and fully enjoyed the book. Although it's a little dated (having been penned in 1969), it bears up well. I was amazed at the number of scientific discoveries that were already put to technological use as early as the 60's (fiber optics being the one that comes most readily to mind).
As in so many of his other works of fiction, Crichton introduces underlying issues of modern society, bringing some of the behavior we tend to accept as a "given" into question. In the case of the Andromeda Strain, he focuses on the hubris of the US military and of the scientific community. He highlights society's blind faith in technological "fixes" for every miss management of the environment, as though scientists and engineers can unfailing forestall the effects of every misdeed perpetrated by humanity on the rest of the planet.
In Andromeda Strain, the space program has been more or less subtly commandeered by the military to probe Earth's upper atmosphere for non-terrestrial bacteria with which to culture biological weapons of mass destruction--sound familiar? They succeed more fully than they are prepared to handle when the tiny organisms get loose among the naive biota of the earth, wrecking havoc with every living thing. To the rescue is a team of 5 carefully chosen scientists from a variety of fields, sealed away in a hyper-isolation facility in the middle of the Southwestern Desert. Can they save the earth in time? Read on!
An excellent early book, worth reading even in the 21st Century.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2000
"The Andromeda Strain" was Michael Crichton's first best-seller and set the stage for what was to come in his subsequent books: one-dimensional characters and an irresistable story. Crichton missed his true vocation; he should have been a high school science teacher. He has a rare gift for taking difficult and incomprehensible scientific topics and making them interesting and even fun for all us techno-dummies.
"The Andromeda Strain" tells the story of a space capsule returning to earth bringing a very unwelcome hitch-hiker in the form of a microscopic organism that reproduces exponentially and acts out in all kinds of nasty ways. It's timely and topical and raises the age-old question, could it actually happen? As Crichton suggests, there may be all kinds of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant, lurking out in deep space waiting to be brought back to Earth, and we had better be ready for them.
The 58 references for further reading listed in the back of the book are probably meant to whet our interest further, although none of them are probably half as interesting as this book is. You turn the final page of Crichton's books feeling you've been both entertained and educated, which, flat characterizations and all, makes him so much fun to read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2001
How do you fight a deadly micro-organism brought to earth by a returning satellite? You know nothing about this micro-organism other than it has completely wiped out an entire town's population except for a sickly old man and a crying baby (clues!). Exposure to this organism will kill you instantly. Do you dare try any of the conventional methods for destroying viruses and germs? Anything you do (even nothing) may cause the micro-organism to multiply faster, mutate, etc, and you risk decimating the earth's population!
That's the challange faced by Michael Crichton's team of elite biophysicists in their top-secret, ultra-sophisticated underground research facility (code name: Wildfire). Rich in scientific details, the book speeds along from the shocking discovery of a town full of dead people, to the cloak-and-dagger process of alerting and assembling the team of civilian experts (some of whom have secrets), to the action occuring in the facility itself (a central character with a few secrets of its own).
The ultra-biologically clean government facility is equipped with automatic safeguard mechanisms that I will only characterize here as extremely thought-provoking. I was intrigued by the elaborate procedures and mechanisms for decomtaminating the scientists prior to entering the facility (not as straight forward as one would think). Also interesting was a side story involving the unexpected results of an experimental drug that kills absolutely every single bacteria, germ, virus, and organisim in the human body.
Logically plotted, highly technical and suspensefully timed, this is a thinking-man's sci-fi story which constantly reminds you of time running out with everything at stake. If you've read Michael Crichton's work before, you'll recognize his recurring theme involving the unpredictability of the universe (chaos theory), and man's mistaken belief that he can change and control nature with technolgy.
The subject was highly topical in the late 60's and early 70's when Apollo missions were bringing material back from the moon on a regular basis. Today, who knows what micro-meteorites bearing alien bacteria may be captured by space shuttles, space stations, etc?
A SIDE NOTE:
If you like this book, you should check out the 1971 film that was based on it. Considering when it was made, it is a surprisingly well-made science fiction film directed by Robert Wise. This is one of the few films that is actually as good as the book it is based on. The acting, production values, set design, and art direction are all very impressive. Sure, the computer hardware may be dated, but this was the real equipment in use at the time and actually increases the film's realism (no ultra flashly graphics, talking computers, over-produced effects, etc.). Like '2001: A Space Odyssey', the film still plays well today. Rent it!