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The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton Everybody gushes over Crichton like he was the greatest thing since sliced bread (which, on further reflection is also overrated), and I'll admit that Jurrasic Park and ER were both well written and interesting, but they were also from much later in his career, when he had had over thirty years to perfect his craft. Andromeda Strain was Crichton's first big success; the one that punched his ticket out of medicine and sent him to Hollywood. That is a bit difficult for me to understand, because this book is a boring piece of crap inhabited by flat, insipid characters who offer no opportunity for the reader to care about them. The whole thing is a procedural "drama" (and I use the term so loosely that it really has no meaning whatsoever here) about a bunch of microbiologists trying to discover a cure to a plague which has its origins in outer space. Apparently some virus living high in the upper atmosphere contaminated a manmade satellite, which then crashed to Earth and caused the outbreak. Yes, I can certainly see how a virus could have formed in that thick layer of amino acids and nucleotides floating out in the ionosphere. It's a veritable primordial soup up there. The space shuttle needs extra boosters just to get through the broth of organic matter that sits magically suspended 100,000 feet above the ground.Whatever. The book is a veritable showcase for pseudo-scientific dialogue which would put the crew of the USS Enterprise to shame ("I've got it!! I'll just reconfigure the phase-shift chain reactors to mimic the carrrier wave pattern recognition buffers, and that will set everything right! The solution is so elegant in its simplicity!!!) Zzzzzz... In Crichton's defense, writing nonsense like that is much easier than thinking about science and reality. The story contains no curve balls, no unexpected twists, or interesting subplots. I was mildly annoyed that the plague of biblical preportions which was driving all the "time pressure" drama was never really described, and barely even mentioned after the introduction. Hell, this could at least have been passable apocalypse porn. At the end, the hero, whatshisname, figures it all out and saves the day like we knew he would. I would be tempted to call the ending anticlimactic, except there never really was a climax. [insert obvious joke here] In general, I am opposed to book burning, but if you're stuck without a functional furnace on a cold winter's day, this one might do.