Michael Crichton‘s The Andromeda Strain was not his first book, but perhaps it is the first book that truly launched his career. Pulling from his knowledge and experience in the medical field prior to becoming a novelist, the Andromeda Strain feels frighteningly real, but unlike ‘hard sci-fi’ that gets bogged down in a lot of little details and thus becomes almost unreadable… Crichton does a pretty wonderful job in making the science feel accessible. This may not be the best analogy, but perhaps the science feels more like something you’d get from a TED Talk as opposed to a College Biology class. In other words, the science makes you feel smarter without trying to impress its intrinsic ‘smartness’ on you the reader.
The story is a very quick read. You could probably finish it in an afternoon. The story takes on an interesting perspective about contact with alien life, being that mankind’s first contact with another life form would more likely be a bacteria or something of the like rather than something intelligent. But, it doesn’t stop there. It doesn’t stay on one note and present itself only as a ‘disaster’ story. It also addresses the idea that aliens might try to communicate their presence to other lifeforms and galaxies via biological means as opposed to mathematical; I particularly enjoyed this since the trend in most conspiracy/alien movies is the premise that ‘math’ is the universal language of intelligent life in the universe as opposed to ‘biology.’
Though Crichton doesn’t stick on any one of these concepts for too long, he presents enough possibilities that make the story feel increasingly expansive, as opposed to a story collapsing in on itself. I’d highly recommend the book, it’s infinitely better than the movie. Also, you have ‘salting’ of government incompetence and machine failure in the mix which enhances the entire flavor of the book.