Now, more than a decade after his death, the bestselling author of techno-thrillers comes back to life. Yes, Michael Crichton (1942-2008) lives again in The Andromeda Equation, a sequel to The Andromeda Strain, the blockbuster novel about an extraterrestrial pathogen that accelerated his writing career half a century ago. Roboticist and science fiction author Daniel H. Wilson wrote the new book by arrangement with Sherri Crichton, the author’s fifth wife and widow. Fortunately, the story works. It’s an imaginative extension of the tale that Crichton turned into a runaway bestseller and popular film so long ago.
An extraterrestrial pathogen threatens life on Earth
During the half-century that has passed since the fictional alien pathogen was eradicated in the Arizona desert, a coalition of powerful nations has maintained a top-secret international program to detect any further infection on Earth. And when the original incident has been largely forgotten, the alarm comes at last with the appearance of a huge alien artifact deep in the Amazon jungle. Acting on behalf of the international program, the United States Air Force swings into action, activating an illustrious team of scientists from all over the world and sending them at top speed to Brazil.
The Andromeda Evolution by Michael Crichton and Daniel H. Wilson (2019) 383 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
A diverse team of illustrious scientists
On site, the team consists of four scientists: one Nigerian, a xenogeologist; one Chinese, a taikonaut, soldier, and medical doctor with a specialty in pathology; one Indian, a physician and specialist in nanotechnology and materials science; and one American, a robotics and artificial intelligence expert. Two of the four are men, two women. They’re accompanied by a male Special Forces soldier and a team of indigenous scouts and guards as they make their way deeper into the depths of rainforest. Much of the emphasis in the story is on the American, James Stone, who has come equipped with a flotilla of fist-sized flying robots that prove to be key to the team’s experience in the jungle.
An ensemble cast of seven
In addition to the four scientists and the soldier who guards them, there are two other major characters in the tale. One is the American four-star Air Force general who heads Project Wildfire, the planet’s early warning system on guard against the Andromeda Strain. The other is a brilliant young woman with ALS who is both a scientist and an astronaut. She has been posted to the International Space Station as the anchor for the team on the ground. Thus, there is no central protagonist to this tale. The action unfolds through the experiences of the seven members of the book’s ensemble cast.
Is an extraterrestrial pathogen a realistic possibility?
Wilson writes fluently and he demonstrates an obvious talent for building the pressure of suspense to a shattering conclusion. It’s been far too long since I read The Andromeda Strain. So I can’t recall enough to know how I might compare the two books, but the sequel is worthy in its own right. It’s a fast read, and the story hangs together. However, whether an extraterrestrial pathogen is a realistic possibility is a question I’ll need to leave to others who know far more biological science than I.
For further reading
I’ve reviewed two excellent nonfiction books about pandemics:
- Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney (Was the Spanish Flu of 1918 a greater disaster than World War II?) and
- Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah (The existential threat of contagious disease)
I’ve also reviewed two previous novels by Daniel H. Wilson: Robopocalypse (Outstanding speculative novel about one possible future) and Amped (Want to buy a brain implant? Think twice).
And I’ve reviewed one of Michael Crichton’s original novels: Sphere by Michael Crichton (Michael Crichton’s literary exercise in human conflict).
For more good reading, check out:
- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
You might also check out Top 10 great popular novels reviewed on this site.
And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, plus a guide to this whole site, on the Home Page.