Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Review: Andromeda Strain by Michael Chrichton

Back in college I read a few Michael Crichtons, and I had meant to get to this one but I didn't, and then once I was off that run of reading, I didn't go back. But earlier this year my (former) boss mentioned this was his favorite book. I watched a bad TV-movie of it. And then it was mentioned in The Hot Zone which I also really liked. So a few weeks ago when I was at a used bookstore, I figured that was a good time to pick this book up. And a few nights ago when I wanted to read something fun and fast, this book practically jumped into my hand.

The Andromeda Strain purports to be the official story (albeit written for a general audience, not for the military) of an incident in the late 1960s when a space probe brought an alien virus back to earth which killed everyone who came in contact with it nearly instantly. Of course it's a novel, but it's written as if it were nonfiction (which is kind of funny since a big compliment for a nonfiction book is to say it reads like fiction.) There are 4 doctors on the team trying to figure out just what this virus is, how it kills, and how to stop it. Naturally it's very exciting, full of science and action, and nearly impossible to put down.

This book was published in 1969 so I was worried that it would be really dated but it wasn't. To me it felt like the mid-80s. If I were a scientist, I might have a different take on that but as a lay person, it didn't feel terribly retro, aside from the heavy use of television screens as computer monitors (they are constantly referred to as TVs, not monitors, which is what kept catching my eye.) Once, one computer is described as the size of a car, but otherwise their computers seem fast and advanced. And I figure within the science/medical field, there might still be computers that size, depending on what they have to do.

As with all Michael Crichton books, this is not for the science-phobic as there's a lot of talk of electron microscopes and enzymes and twenty-power scans. I was very glad I read The Hot Zone first as it did help me understand a great deal about both viruses and decontamination/ sterilization. A terrific beach read, this medical/scientific thriller does hold up even 40 years later. It was a lot of fun, and I really couldn't put it down, and carried it with me from room to room, reading while I was doing anything.


Unknown said...

Great review of a favorite book. I tweeted this review to my following under the hashmark #helpotherbookblogs hopefully you can do the same for another book blogger.


Jeane said...

I think I saw a film version of this when I was a kid in school. Was there a woman who had seizures when she saw flashing red lights? Seriously, that's all I remember from the movie!