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FALL CHALLENGE 2020 > Group Reads Discussion - The Andromeda Strain

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message 1: by SRC Moderator (new)

SRC Moderator | 4964 comments Mod
This is the discussion thread for the Fall 2020 Group Read The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. Please post your comments here. This thread is not restricted to those choosing this book for task 20.10, feel free to join in the discussion. Warning- spoilers ahead!

The requirement for task 20.10: You must participate in the book's discussion thread below with at least one post about the contents of the book or your reaction to the book after you have read the book.


message 2: by Amy (new)

Amy Bracco | 407 comments Amy B

The theme of this book's part of the challenge is "The book was better than the movie." I'm aware of this classic, though had never read it before. And also aware it's been made into a movie at least twice, but haven't seen either version. But while reading this book, I kept commenting to my husband, "okay, I'm at 50% and nothing has happened yet. Okay, now I'm at 70% and nothing's happened...." And then the ending was just nothing. This was the least thrilling thriller I have ever read. But don't take my word for it - it gets consistently high ratings. I read through them, trying to figure out what I missed, but I can't. I hope you can.


message 3: by Tanya (new)

Tanya D (mtlbookworm) | 161 comments This is actually a book I've been meaning to read for quite a long time, so I was happy to pick it up. I breezed through it in about 2 days.

Overall I found the book to be fascinating and the way it was written kept my attention throughout, kept me reading. Like Amy, I was expecting a big reveal at the end but this ending reminded me a lot of the ending of the movie War of the Worlds, so that was a bit disappointing. I was also hoping for more character development and backstory- to be honest, all the scientists in the book were interchangeable to me, I couldn't distinguish one from the other.

That being said, I actually found the book to be quite interesting in the way it portrayed the scientists trying to find a complicated solution to a problem, that, as it turns out, doesn't really exist. I feel that we as humans tend to do that- over-complicate and overthink things, when in reality if we just let situations play out without interference, they would work themselves out with much less drama or complication. I'm giving this book 4 stars.


message 4: by TraceyL (new)

TraceyL | 988 comments Michael Crichton is one of those authors that have really interesting concepts, but it's hard for me to get immersed in the story. I'll keep picking up his books even though I know I'm always disappointed in the end.

I like books that focus on scientists trying to solve a big, deadly problem that threatens mankind, so I did find that interesting. I'll probably watch the movie at some point.


message 5: by Katy (last edited Sep 16, 2020 12:21PM) (new)

Katy | 672 comments What an unusual book! Not at all what I expected. I think because my first thought when I hear "Michael Crichton" is Jurassic Park (and the movie, not the book!), I assume it'll be a fast paced thrill type book, and I forget that Crichton actually was trained in science. The scientific details and style (the data dumps, reconstruction of days, etc) were slow going for me at first but once I had a sense of what I was dealing with, the pace picked up and I was eager to read on. I did feel like the ending was somewhat abrupt - I was shocked when I looked down and saw how little was left, and wondered how on earth things would get wrapped up in time!


message 6: by Jammin Jenny (new)

Jammin Jenny (jamminjenny) | 727 comments I enjoyed the scientific aspect of it too, and the whole premise of an alien organism reaching our planet and killing a whole town is pretty cool (from an apocalyptic view point). I thought the author did a really good job explaining the scientific process everyone went through, and their analysis to find out what the thing is was really good.


message 7: by Shawn (new)

Shawn | 279 comments I agree with most of the things posted above. I felt like I flew through this book, but kept waiting for something to "happen." I enjoyed the scientific stuff in this book and found the idea/premise of the book to be interesting.

As much as I enjoyed the book, I found the ending to be a let down. It felt like so much of the book was building up to a "big reveal/wrap up" and then things just kind of ended. I guess I was hoping for the ending to be more exciting or involved, but it wasn't.

All in all I found the book a worthwhile read. I haven't seen the movie and can't say that this made me want watch it.


message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim | 667 comments I first read The Andromeda Strain many as a teenager. I enjoyed it then. I enjoyed it even more the second time. I am not a huge science fiction fan, but I like Crichton's because he doesn't skimp on the science. Andromeda Strain is not as fast-paced as Jurassic Park, but it is no less interesting. Other reviewers have mentioned that it seemed slow-paced. I think that was done because most scientific research is methodical and often repetitive.

I'm curious about the "sequel". I haven't decided yet if will read it.


message 9: by Sandra (new)

Sandra (sandra72) | 726 comments I read this book for the first time many years ago and did not really enjoy it. When it came up as a Group Read, I thought I'd give it another go. The premise is exactly what I love to read (and watch movies/tv shows) about - a group of scientists in a top secret underground bunker working against time to control the deadly effects of an alien microorganism.

While the scientific aspects of the story were somewhat interesting, the overall story was slow and without much action or excitement. Definitely not the thriller it's portrayed to be.

I've got the sequel on my shelf and plan on reading it, and I want to watch the 1971 movie and 2008 TV mini-series. Let's see if those are better than the book.


message 10: by Sara (new)

Sara G | 852 comments This is a really weird book. It's billed as a thriller but written in a very dry, scientific manner, and there's not much "thrilling" about it until the last few pages. Even that was really not that interesting to me and the ending was extremely anti-climactic.

I also got really stuck on the fact that there are no real female characters other than a scientist's wife (he leaves her at home to run a dinner party while he does science things), a lab assistant, and the woman who recorded her voice for a computer. I know this book was written in 1969, but it is always painful for me to read science fiction where women are basically ignored. There's a really sexist pseudo-scientific comment made, too - single women are not good decision-makers (with fake statistics to back it up) but single men are amazing at making good decisions. Maybe I'm a little too judgmental, but I had so many issues with this book.

I know this is a group read for "the book was better than the movie" but I've never seen the movie and definitely don't plan to!


message 11: by KSMary (new)

KSMary | 839 comments What a let down! I thought the premise started out interesting but I agree with many of the statements above - the scientists were basically interchangeable, the data dumps were basically pages that I just skipped over. Even if I put it into perspective of the time period that it was written in, the conclusion was so lacking. In retrospect, I wonder if he had this great idea but scientifically didn't know how to come up with a solution other than to just have it mutate to a benign form. I would think that Hollywood would be able to make a movie better than this book.


message 12: by Joanna (new)

Joanna (walker) | 434 comments It's amazing to me that this was written in 1969. It could easily have been written in the 1990s and still feel just as fresh (much later than that and the computers get too far out of date). I agree with some of the others here that the ending was a bit of a letdown after what I found to be an enjoyable book.

I also hadn't realized this was the first book that Michael Crichton published under his own name.


message 13: by Kristi (last edited Nov 01, 2020 07:22AM) (new)

Kristi (kristilarson) | 520 comments KRISTI CO

I did enjoy this book, but I kept waiting for something to happen. And basically, nothing did. The ending seemed more like the end of chapter. (And I suspect that Crichton didn't even plan on a sequel, given that he didn't write the one that was published 50 years later.) There was a lot of build up for an explanation that didn't explain much.

I was however fascinated that it was written before the moon landing. The Space Race, and the prospect of alien lifeforms, would have been in the forefront of American minds. I kind of laughed when he described the microscopes, just thinking that that was cutting edge technology at the time and knowing how far we've come since. So I do appreciate that he was writing something unique and thrilling (for the times).

I haven't seen the movie. I would maybe watch it if I came across it, just because I like to compare. (I don't always prefer the book to the movie.) No plans to read the sequel, I'll stick to Jurassic Park!


message 14: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 1020 comments Kathy KS

After my second reading, almost 50 years later...

Well, sorry, Mr. Crichton, but I ended up downgrading my original star rating after this reading. I'm sure a lot of the change is a result of my current "person" has read and learned a lot since my high school "person" would have first read this one.

My memories of both the book and the movie were very slim, but I really thought there was more action to this story. (Maybe the movie had more?) I didn't really find the story that compelling and the "solution" seemed just... convenient. And there wasn't much character development. Largely, if you enjoy the SCIENCE part of science fiction, this is pretty much a scientific treatise. (The actual bibliography at the end was a nice touch, though).

A reminder to younger readers (younger than me, of course): remember that this is written in the late 1960s. The computers of that era were soooooo much different than today. There are many times in the story that you might now be tempted to think something like "well, why don't they just do this?" Well, we are definitely spoiled today when we can carry a "computer" around in our pockets and get so much data immediately!

PS... I admit that I'm now tempted to re-watch the movie to see if I change my opinions there, too. And see if there IS more action.


message 15: by Nick (new)

Nick (doily) | 2576 comments Nick KY

So why did the 69 yr old man survive? And why the infant? I know the answer is in this book somewhere. As I have read this book three times now, I know I have read it. But what, exactly, is it again?

Those were the questions which plagued me when I first read The Andromeda Strain when I was in high school. In the 1970s, this book was not alone in its intentions or its targeted audience – white adolescent American men. There is a lot of science and little emotion. Teenage men were being indoctrinated with the idea that science was king and was the appropriate goal for all male American youth. Unless you were good at a sport – and even then….

Ironically, this was the time that science fiction was also taking its steps into a large amount of social issues, especially gender-oriented ones (Ursula K. Le Guin, James Tiptree, Jr., Joanna Russ, etc.) But this Heinlein-Clrake-Asimov type of pure science as savior of the world was still being produced, and Crichton happened to step into a popular niche which made the sci-fi spread into a more general pop culture.

And I loved it. I still do. The Wildfire project, the multi-layered bunker, the mysterious alien force – all make for a groovy read and take me back to my adolescence when I was wowed by the pure joy of science itself. I no longer care about the answers to the mystery – in fact, I have learned over the years to enjoy the mysterious unanswered which pulls the brain apart.( –not that The Andromeda Strain is any sort of Twin Peaks.) But the science reigns supreme – and the science does not always have satisfactory conclusions.


message 16: by Shelby (last edited Nov 26, 2020 01:53PM) (new)

Shelby (stang_lee) | 581 comments Shelby

This was interesting, for all that is extremely technical it actually reads really quickly. I enjoyed the science aspects of this story more than the story itself I think. I got a bit frustrated as things sort of just happened, but didn't seem to really build anywhere. I liked the set up, the strange effect of this space bug on the population. I liked the idea of the group pulled together to deal with the potential fallout. But again things ultimately felt like they stalled out a little for me to really enjoy it all.


message 17: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia (cynthiabaxter) | 728 comments I read this ages ago but didn't remember a lot of it but there were bits that became familiar as I read on. I remember the chapter on Decontamination because I recalled that when James Bond was going thru all the similar levels in Dr. No. Hmmm....I think Dr. No came before Andromeda. No matter - I have a love/hate relationship with Dr. Crichton's writing - the subject matter is always very very interesting but he buries it under a mountainous level of exposition - or info dumping - Crichton was the KING of exposition, until Dan Brown came and snatched that crown.
Yet, I still loved his stories....Timeline and Pirate Latitudes being my favorites.
Re-reading Andromeda, given that the COVID pandemic is always looming overhead, kept me engage, even thru all the minutiae of bacteriology, as I am continually surprised at just how forward thinking Crichton was and wonder how things could be, if we had just listened to the scientist in the first place.
But then again....those scientists, in a different book, replicated the DNA they found in amber....what could go wrong?
I'm glad that we had an older book to read for this task - and especially a techno-medical thriller. Hope this happens more - there are a lot of great oldies out there!


message 18: by Sarah (new)

Sarah | 1335 comments I read this many years ago, so the story was not new to me. What I missed that first time was noticing how 'of its time' it was- the smoking, the computers, the female characters that barely exist except as wives or assistants.

It does make me wonder how people will react to today's attitudes in 50 years. Much as I wanted to say "you'll get cancer" to the smokers in the book, I imagine future generations will wonder that there even was a debate about climate change in our time, as they have to deal with the consequences.


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