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A for Andromeda Hardcover – June, 1962

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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"A must-read for any discerning science fiction fan."  —Starburst magazine
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Fred Hoyle was one of the most renowned scientists of his generation, having served as the Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge University. He was the author of The Black Cloud, Home Is Where the Wind Blows, and Intelligent Universe. John Elliot was a leading BBC television producer and a novelist. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Harper & Brothers; Book Club (BCE/BOMC) edition (June 1962)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9997403673
  • ISBN-13: 978-9997403674
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,538,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is a sad fact that Fred Hoyle--astrophysicist, cosmologist, nucleosynthecist, panspermicist and generally polymath extraordinaire--is not better recognized as one of our greatest sci-fi authors. Without a doubt, this book is one of the best sci-fi novels I have ever read. (FYI, I also like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Lewis Shiner, William Gibson, Philip K. Dick and H.G. Wells). All I can do is briefly outline the plot: An eccentric and somewhat egocentric radioastronmer...computer scientist detects a signal from the constellation Andromeda on Britain's largest radiotelescope that is obviously an intelligent message. Once decoded, it turns out to be a design for a highly advanced super-computer. Once built, the computer designs recombinant human DNA and grows highly advanced "human beings" with which it communicates in its apparent intent to take over the earth. Due to cold-war politics and the obvious advantages to the government of having a supercomputer, and not least to the protagonist's difficult personality, the government authorities won't believe him and refuse to pull the plug, moving this brilliant and exciting story inexorably along to its superb and tragic ending. The characters are complex and mutlifaceted and the story is a real thriller. Highly recommended.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I actually saw the TV series when I was a child. It was an amazing thing for me, it altered the way I looked at the world and the universe. The book is good, but the TV series was better. There are two main characters in the book. Dr Fleming and Andromeda. There also a female doctor Dawnay and others but I have to draw the line somewhere.

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".
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Plot summary: a radio signal from the Andromeda "nebula" (galaxy) is a plan for a computer. The computer, when built, asks the scientists questions about what elements they are based on, etc. It then tells them how to build a cell from scratch, which multiplies until it becomes a dog-sized amoeba with a lidless eye and primitive brain. They hook it up to the computer as an input device. The computer then gives them instructions for building a human, who functions similarly. She helps the British build a great anti-missile missile and the British get all excited about becoming a great power again. But, of course, there is one scientist who knows what is really going on...the alien intelligence is using them, not vice versa....

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!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The basic premise is very original. That's not so surprising since when published in 1962. The public was just beginning to be aware of and to "get" computers. It also addresses the a fundamental SF problem, "how can we interact dramatically with distant extra solar cultures given that the speed of light cannot be exceeded." The usual solutions are FTL flight or suspended animation. Hoyle's solution is very clever.

The 21st century reader needs to be a tolerant of Hoyle's perfectly natural assumption that computers become more powerful by becoming physically larger. Yet his description of the architecture of the computer in question shows he had more than a superficial understanding of how a computer works though reading the "specs" is a bit amusing as the memory and speed characteristics he describes would fit in your iPhone rather than a warehouse. And like nearly everyone else up through the day before yesterday he under-appreciates just how tremendously hard cracking the AI nut is going to be. In addition understanding DNA and how it works has turned out 50+ years later to be deeper and more complex that the story line suggests.

I think Gene Roddenberry must have read this. The interaction between Fleming and Andromeda/André may have inspired more than one Kirk & alien bimbo plot.

Reading this book I couldn't help visualizing it as a black ans white British B SF movie. Tweed, pipes, sherry, pubs, fading empire, neolithic male/female roles, etc. I'm old enough to get nostalgic. Younger reader may be a tad puzzled.

Nonetheless it is really ripping yarn with at least one unique core idea and encourages reading in through one sitting.
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