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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!
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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Read it long ago. On re-reading recently, I found it shallow, simplistic, and often ridiculous. Despite all that, it was sometimes touching.Published 1 month ago by parhelion
In my opinion one of the best ever written sci-fi books. Scientifically correct and far-sighted for the time of writing.Published 8 months ago by Lorenz Born
Terrific sf written with respect of scientific knowledge.Published 14 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
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The basic premiss of this book is fantastic. Although the idea of radio contact with aliens was not original at the time, Hoyle took it up a notch and inspired several movies like... Read morePublished on December 15, 2011 by A Critic
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 hwash
Message babe from space.
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