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3 August 2012

The Andromeda Strain (1969)

I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with outbreak-type stories; Who can fail to love tales of disease and pestilence ravishing the human race? I guess in some ways, it may have helped to fuel my unhealthy obsession with zombies... or at least the infected variety.

Peter Jackson helps to unravel the mysteries of the Andromeda Strain

One of the first films I ever saw on this subject was an adaptation of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. I saw it in the late 70s. I remember watching it alone on a continuous loop in a hotel room as an impressionable child. God knows how many times I watched it that night... It scared the life out of me!

The author Michael Crichton was 6 feet 9 inches tall. He started his
career writing under the pen name John Lange - thought to be a reference
to be his height.

A number of years later I discovered Michael Crichton and his books. It was only a matter of time before I tracked down the book that inspired the film. The Andromeda Strain was actually the first book that Michael Crichton released under his own name. It was published in 1969 whilst Crichton was still at Harvard medical school and became an instant bestseller, paving the way for what turned into a stellar career. Other books that I’d recommend you check out by Crichton are Jurrasic Park and the much underrated Eaters of the Dead which was filmed as The 13th Warrior starring Antonio Banderas (also worth checking out).

But what’s it all about?

Holiday snaps from Arizona

The Andromeda Strain starts with something strange happening in the sleepy little hamlet of Piedmont, Arizona. Scientists have been despatched to recover a “scoop” that has crash-landed back on Earth having spent some time orbiting in the outer atmosphere. Only there’s something wrong with the town. Everyone is dead! Oh no! What on earth can have happened? Could it have anything to do with the wayward scoop? You betcha!

We quickly learn of a top-secret emergency programme designed to cope with just such an event. Can world disaster be averted? Oooh... you’d better read this book to find out!

Isn't this cool! The original soundtrack from the film was
released on an hexagonal record.

Crichton is known for writing Techno-thrillers; It became a bit of a trademark for him. So it should be no surprise that The Andromeda Strain relies heavily on a heady mixture of science fact and science fiction. Given the age of the novel, you might be worried (as I was) that the science might be showing its age. Actually, it has aged pretty well. Yeah, the world’s moved on a lot since 1969, but this story captures the topic well and glimpses a future that isn’t too far removed from what has come to pass. There are some great ideas hidden away in here.

All the clues are here... if only you can read them...

The writing is fairly basic and simple in its style. I think Crichton honed his skill in this regard later in his career and did go on to produce better, but this isn't bad by any stretch. With The Andromeda Strain, it works, but really it’s the topic and story that keeps you turning the pages.

There’s a lot of nostalgia in this book for me, but I’m going to try and give you a level-headed verdict. On the Triple-B, there are only 6 days left until complete disaster, but it’s okay... I’ve got a nuclear bomb!


  1. Re:
    "The Andromeda Strain starts with something strange happening in the sleepy little hamlet of Piedmont, Arizona. Scientists have been despatched to recover a “scoop” that has crash-landed back on Earth having spent some time orbiting in the outer atmosphere. Only there’s something wrong with the town. "

    That explains a lot to me about the city of Perth and it's people's behavior...since sky-lab crashed into the Western Australia desert in the late 70's.-)

  2. Just what were NASA thinking? "NASA calculated that the odds of station re-entry debris hitting a human were 1 to 152". Well, it was only Australia! Actually, I've heard nothing but good things about Perth. I haven't been, but would love to go...

  3. I'm only kidding about people from Perth being like zombies.
    I've never crossed the desert to that side of the country.
    But the funny thing is that I only have two brother-in-laws.
    One is from Perth,and now lives in Brisbane.The other is from Brisbane,and has just moved to Perth.
    ....Hang on a second,my brother-in-law from Perth is banging on the front door yelling something about brains and frothing at the mouth.
    I had better go and see what he wants.

  4. Here's a post,and a blog you might like to check out King Uke -

    I just love the very witty comment left by some very funny blogger who seems to write under the same name as me.-)

  5. Ha ha - you'll be getting yourself blocked before you know it! Nick Redfern has a great taste in music and seems to be very prolific in his writing. Although, I'm not really sure what genre he covers. I was just googling Redfern and Perth and came across this completely unrelated snippet: "For decades farmers in the southwest of Australia have been convinced that there are cougars at large in the Australian bush, devastating wildlife and livestock. Hundreds of sightings have been documented in Western Australia, from as far north as Geraldton, south to Esperance and inland to Norseman. Australian journalist David O'Reilly became fascinated with what is known as perhaps Australia's greatest wildlife mystery during his time as the bureau chief of The Australian's Perth office. He interviewed scores of witnesses – farmers, wildlife experts, academics and bureaucrats – and wrote many stories about the hunt for the 'Cordering Cougar', as it became known, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This book, now back in print for the first time in 30 years, is the culmination of that work." I love stories like this! Ask your brother-in-laws if they know any good stories about this. I WANT TO HEAR MORE!

  6. That could indeed be my
    brother-in-law from Brisbane who moved to Perth.
    He is a bit of a pussy...but a tough pussy,and he has a tattoo of a panther (as I do) on his shoulder.
    Maybe the panther tat has been confused with a know how dumb people from Perth can be
    (although he has been there less than 30 maybe not?).

    Hang on a tick...I just have to put an axe through my other
    brother-in-law's chest.
    He just smashed my front door down.
    He obviously needs a brain pronto.
    You might want to look the other way for a moment.
    This won't be pretty.

  7. Nick's a crypto-zooligist and has written a shipload of books on the subject.
    Just go to Amazon and search his name,to see what books he has written.
    I have one of his books,but I haven't read it yet.
    He seems like a nice guy,but I don't think I would like to run into him in a dark alley .-)

    I'm off to's nearly midnight here and I've been down at Byron Bay all weekend.
    Back in twelve hours...or maybe more.