Ok, guys, confession time: I have never (really, never) read a Michael Crichton novel. I realize I am probably the last person on planet Earth to be reading this, so bear with me.
The novel opens with two military officers trying to track down a fallen satellite. It leads them to tiny Piedmont, Arizona where they make a grim discovery: it appears the whole town is dead. There are bodies littering the street and every light has been extinguished. Soon, the military base loses contact with the officers as well. This leads to an investigation to find out what exactly happened to wipe out the entire town. A special team of scientists (formed in the event that anything like this should ever happen) is called in to comb the town. They discover the fallen satellite, now open, and take it back to their specialized, underground lab to analyze it. They also discover two survivors in the town: an old man and a baby. The first few chapters are engaging and tense; the mystery of what happened creeps in with an escalating sense of dread, and I loved it.
This is where I feel it’s important to mention my predilections in literature: I love supernatural and extraterrestrial stories, but I don’t have a lot of experience with science fiction. I lean toward the books that are heavy on the fiction, light on the science, and this fact very likely colored my perception of the book because from the point that they return to the lab and most of the book is spent in the lab, trying to figure out how the organism from the satellite (dubbed the Andromeda Strain) wiped out all those people.
Crichton warns you in the introduction that a lot of the text is heavy on the scientific language and he’s not kidding. I understood most of what was going on, even if some of the smaller details were lost on me, and Crichton was able to make the process seem pretty interesting. Crichton really is a skilled writer and my frustration with this book should in no way detract from that. A few more events unfold in the outside world, possibly related to Andromeda, but everything we see is filtered through the scientists in the lab for the most part. I think this is where the book lost me. I wanted more contact with Piedmont, and with the survivors. I want to see what the consequences of this organism are out in society and I want to see how it is affecting people. The last sixty or so pages of the novel pick up and ratchet the tension up, but I wanted more of that throughout the novel. I came out of it having enjoyed the story but wishing I had gotten a greater perspective of the effects of Andromeda. So, if you like your science fiction heavy on the scientific, this is a great book for you.