- Series: The Story-Tellers
- Paperback: 176 pages
- Publisher: Souvenir Press; New edition (September 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0285635883
- ISBN-13: 978-0285635883
- Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.4 x 5.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A for Andromeda (The Story-Tellers) Paperback – September 1, 2012
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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.
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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.
Actually, the first time I read it I must have been barely seven or eight (I was born in 1983). Someone had thought to edit an abridged children's version - which might sound peculiar but you have to give kids credit for being able to grasp complex ideas even if they can't read complex language easily. Or maybe it was intended for adult English as a Second Language readers. Anyway, it was one of my favourite science fiction novels and I was happy to find a full edition recently. Much better than Hoyle's other novel which I read, "The Black Cloud".
The outline of the plot is a "First Contact"/SETI story. Essentially, however, it's a morality tale about how the lust for political and military power can lead to unwise decisions about the use of technology. I think most similar stories from this era would focus on technological weapons with overt power - i.e. the atom bomb or metaphors for it. This is something more insidious, a computer which subverts its human operators despite seeming like an innocuous calculating machine, perhaps an advanced version of the Golden Records that we sent out on the Voyager probes.
Most of the characters are pretty stereotypical, including the hero John Fleming as a hotheaded young genius. Even though Judy Adamson is fairly minor as a player in the plot, she's more interesting as the Ministry of Defense's spy with a troubled conscience. The character of the humanoid Andromeda only appears in the latter half of the book. She falls into the science fiction category of half-alien/-mechanical persons discovering their human side, and I happen to like that sort of thing too.
The only major complaint I have about it is Hoyle and Elliot's biological howlers, but as a biology grad student I'm used to that from science fiction novels written by physicists. The sexism toward female characters (the only one granted the courtesy of being referred to by her surname and not being called "girl" is a crusty, butch old biochemistry professor) is expected since it's from the early 1960s...half a decade before we saw female officers on Star Trek: TOS.
If these sentiments do not bother you, you may find this book equal to Hoyle's best (The Black Cloud, and October the First is Too Late).
The plot was grabbed by Carl Sagan for his 'Contact'. Since Hoyle was writing in the sixties, he felt it necessary to include explanations of what computers were, which really dates the book.
Hoyle was a great astrophysicist, and the most vocal proponent of the steady state theory, now out of favor. He impressed Richard Feynman by predicting correctly the existence of a particular excited state of the carbon atom, based soley on the fact that without such a state, stars would not work the way they obviously did. This was the first connection between quantum mechanics and astronomy. (I give you this bio because I think it relates to the fascination of the book.)
There is a sequel, Andromeda Breakthrough, which is not quite as interesting.
Added later: on rereading the book again, perhaps it's not left-wing so much as Aspergers. Now that I know what Aspergers is, my identification with the 'hero' resonated less, and my knowledge of the world has increased to the point I found the political passages trite.
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