The Andromeda Strain book review

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Since I was a child, my favorite movie has been Jurassic Park. All the books I had read on dinosaurs only gave descriptions and simple illustrations. When I first watched the movie, seeing dinosaurs come to life filled me with a sense of awe and excitement. My eyes lit up every time I recognized a dinosaur from a book. Brontosaurus! T-Rex! Dilophosaurus! Velociraptor!

Now that I’m older, I know that extracting dinosaur DNA from fossilized mosquitoes is just science fiction. Now that I’m older, I understand the plot and feel the tension caused by the mortal peril the characters are in (vs. when I was young, when I was like “HAHA, that guy sitting on the toilet just got eaten by a T-Rex”).  But I still love the movie. Jurassic Park reminds me of my childhood dreams, some of which are not impossible—and these are the dreams I can make a reality. I was going through my old school files. There was a poster I made in elementary school of what my goals in life were. Written in neon pink gel pen (gel pens were all the rage) and accompanied by doodles, my goals were to: “1. Make the olympic hockey team. 2. Have a business that gave people jobs.” It’s probably too late for goal #1. But for goal #2, I have my whole life.

Anyway, Jurassic Park is based off the book of the same name by Michael Crichton. I just finished reading another book of his, The Andromeda Strain. It is about an extraterrestrial microorganism that wipes out an entire town, and the scientists studying the organism to prevent it from spreading. The book felt very modern, despite the fact that it was first published in 1969. The only times I felt the book’s age were statements that said something to the effect of “Computers are amazing! They can do advanced computations that would take humans years to compute in less than a second.” Now computers are ubiquitous and this fact is taken for granted. Without spoiling the plot, the book is really cool. I was refreshing terms from high school biology over the course of the thriller– gram negative, amino acids, enzymes, carbonic acid. And there are “primary documents” and transcripts interspersed throughout the book. Like when the characters are analyzing the results of x-ray crystallography, there is a picture of the result. And SPOILER ALERT, it was ironic that the Andromeda strain became benign on its own, whereas all the safeguards put in place to prevent the strain’s spread would have only exacerbated the problem and caused the crisis they were trying to avoid.

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