Book Review: The Andromeda Evolution by Michael Crichton and Daniel H. Wilson
By Ray PalenFebruary 28, 2020
Fifty years after Michael Crichton came out with The Andromeda Strain—and spawned a new genre, the technothriller—the threat returns, in a gripping sequel.
In the year 1969, author Michael Crichton released a novel that was decades ahead of its time. That novel was titled The Andromeda Strain and it also spawned a top-rate film of the same name released in 1971 from Oscar-winning director Robert Wise.
It’s hard to believe that Michael Crichton left us twelve years ago in the year 2008. Thankfully, there were a few unfinished works that were completed and released posthumously. Beyond that, there have been a myriad of authors who were inspired by Crichton’s work and this has fueled their own creations. One such author is Daniel H. Wilson. The best-selling author of Robopocalyse has used Crichton’s 1969 release of The Andromeda Strain and created a new novel titled The Andromeda Evolution, which looks at the impact on our planet should another viral super-strain get released here.
Like the original, The Andromeda Evolution depicts a brief period in which a small band of experts fight off a viral strain which could have brought about a planet-wide extinction of every living species. Project Eternal Vigilance was created in the wake of the original Andromeda Strain which killed nearly every resident of Piedmont, Arizona. This project has kept a watchful eye for the re-emergence of this strain. Their wait would be approximately fifty years and the impacted area was located within the Brazilian wilderness. As with the first Andromeda Strain, it was quickly identified that this one did not originate on planet Earth.
A team labeled Project Wildfire is assembled to study and contain the deadly strain: Nidhi Vedala, M.D.-Ph.D. — specialty Nanotechnology; Harold Odhiambo, Ph.D. — specialty xenogeology; Peng Wu, Major in the PLA Air Force — specialty medical pathology; Zachary Gordon, US Army Sergeant First Class — specialty battalion senior medic and trauma surgeon; and Sophie Kline, Ph.D. — specialty nanobiology & microgravity research. The powers that be recognize that the team is missing something or someone who could directly tie things to the original Piedmont team. The decision is made to add James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from the original team. James Stone’s area of specialization was artificial intelligence and robotics.
The Project Team was purposely created to include diverse members from across the planet. This was done due to the unfortunate splintering of the countries that were initially part of a global initiative. This has caused countries like China and Russia to include the study of viral threats like the Andromeda Strain as part of their space programs. Reporting directly to General Rand L. Stern of the U.S. Air Force and led by Dr. Vedala, the new team was quickly sent to Brazil to analyze and assess the strain to verify if it was indeed the return of Andromeda.
There are many quotes scattered throughout the novel attributed to the original author, Michael Crichton. One, in particular, stuck with me and spoke directly to the need for the team to work well as a cohesive unit: “In a disaster…individual personality does not matter. Almost everything you do is going to make it worse.” Strong and very insightful words that need to be taken to heart by Dr. Vedala and other team members who initially were not in favor of James Stone being a part of the project. It will be no surprise to readers that, before all is said and done, James Stone will play a major role in the resolution of The Andromeda Evolution.
The team will require a local military guide who knows the Brazilian terrain and is fluent in Portuguese. There is no time to waste as this strain is extremely virulent and contagious. At one point, a picture taken of the area impacted by the new Andromeda Strain almost suggests a red, demonic face. It feels easier to battle an enemy if you are able to give it a face, humanizing it. As this new strain has evolved significantly from the original version, it only makes sense for the team to name it the Andromeda Evolution or AS-2.
What will follow in the upcoming days will be a completely unpredictable set of circumstances. This refers not only to the ever-changing AS-2 but also the human element of team members—one of whom has a deadly agenda that could risk the fate of the entire planet. Success may lie in the discovery of a small boy who survived the AS-2 attack. The outcome will include not only deadly work in the Brazilian jungle but also a finale involving the use of a ‘space elevator’ for a battle aboard a space station.
My hat goes off to Daniel H. Wilson for being able to literally climb into the mind and skin of the late Michael Crichton to produce a sequel that is more than worthy of his legacy. The Andromeda Evolution is intelligent but never speaks above the reader’s head, allowing them to remain completely aware of the danger and suspense that drips from every page. I even found elements of the finale that resemble the recent film Ad Astra, starring Brad Pitt. It would be great to see Daniel H. Wilson try to tackle some of Crichton’s other stories, lending itself to the adage that great writers never die as long as there are readers out there to continue to delight in their written work.