Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
The Andromeda Strain

The Andromeda Strain

Overview
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton
John Michael Crichton , best known as Michael Crichton, was an American best-selling author, producer, director, and screenwriter, best known for his work in the science fiction, medical fiction, and thriller genres. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted...

, is a techno-thriller
Techno-thriller
Techno-thrillers are a hybrid genre, drawing subject matter generally from spy/action thrillers, fantasy/war novels, and science fiction...

 novel documenting the efforts of a team of scientists investigating a deadly extraterrestrial
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 microorganism that rapidly and fatally clots human blood, while in other people inducing insanity. The Andromeda Strain appeared in the The New York Times Best Seller list, establishing Michael Crichton as a genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 writer.

When a military satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 returns to Earth, a recovery team is dispatched to retrieve it; during a live radio communication with their base, the team members suddenly die.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'The Andromeda Strain'
Start a new discussion about 'The Andromeda Strain'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Quotations

On the cover of the file was stenciled WILDFIRE, and underneath, an ominous note:

:: THIS FILE IS CLASSIFIED TOP SECRET.

:: Examination by unauthorized access is a criminal offense punishable by fines and imprisonment up to 20 years and $20,000.

: When Leavitt gave him the file, Hall had read the note and whistled.

: "Don't you believe it," Leavitt said.

: "Just a scare?"

He [Stone] often argued that human intelligence was more trouble than it was worth. It was more destructive than creative, more confusing than revealing, more discouraging than satisfying, more spiteful than charitable.

Day 3: Wildfire; Chapter 20: Routine
Encyclopedia
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton
John Michael Crichton , best known as Michael Crichton, was an American best-selling author, producer, director, and screenwriter, best known for his work in the science fiction, medical fiction, and thriller genres. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted...

, is a techno-thriller
Techno-thriller
Techno-thrillers are a hybrid genre, drawing subject matter generally from spy/action thrillers, fantasy/war novels, and science fiction...

 novel documenting the efforts of a team of scientists investigating a deadly extraterrestrial
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 microorganism that rapidly and fatally clots human blood, while in other people inducing insanity. The Andromeda Strain appeared in the The New York Times Best Seller list, establishing Michael Crichton as a genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 writer.

Plot summary


When a military satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

 returns to Earth, a recovery team is dispatched to retrieve it; during a live radio communication with their base, the team members suddenly die. Aerial surveillance reveals that everyone in Piedmont, Arizona
Piedmont, Arizona
Piedmont is a ghost town in Yavapai County, Arizona, United States. It was located between the Weaver Mountains and the Date Creek Mountains of Arizona, on Date Creek Road . It was near the ghost towns of Congress and Hillside...

, the town closest to where the satellite landed, is apparently dead. The base commander suspects the satellite returned with an extraterrestrial organism and recommends activating Wildfire, the government-sponsored team that counters extraterrestrial
Extraterrestrial life
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from Earth...

 biological infestation.

The Wildfire scientific team studying the unknown strain is composed of Dr. Jeremy Stone, bacteriologist specialist; Dr. Peter Leavitt, disease pathology
Pathology
Pathology is the precise study and diagnosis of disease. The word pathology is from Ancient Greek , pathos, "feeling, suffering"; and , -logia, "the study of". Pathologization, to pathologize, refers to the process of defining a condition or behavior as pathological, e.g. pathological gambling....

; Dr. Charles Burton, infection vectors specialist; and Dr. Mark Hall, M.D., surgeon, biochemistry
Biochemistry
Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes...

 and pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 specialist. He is the "odd man", since he is the only one without a spouse. The Robertson Odd Man Hypothesis states that unmarried men are capable of carrying out the best, most dispassionate decisions during crisis and he is given the only key that can disarm the self-destruct mechanism
Self-destruct
A self-destruct is a mechanism which causes a device to destroy itself under a predefined set of circumstances.Self-destruct mechanisms are also found on devices and systems where malfunction could endanger large numbers of people...

. A fifth scientist, Dr. Christian Kirke, electrolytes specialist, was unavailable for duty because of appendicitis
Appendicitis
Appendicitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the appendix. It is classified as a medical emergency and many cases require removal of the inflamed appendix, either by laparotomy or laparoscopy. Untreated, mortality is high, mainly because of the risk of rupture leading to...

.

The scientists believe the satellite, which was actually designed to capture upper-atmosphere microorganisms for bio-weapon exploitation, returned with a deadly microorganism that kills by nearly instantaneous disseminated intravascular coagulation
Disseminated intravascular coagulation
Disseminated intravascular coagulation , also known as disseminated intravascular coagulopathy or consumptive coagulopathy, is a pathological activation of coagulation mechanisms that happens in response to a variety of diseases. DIC leads to the formation of small blood clots inside the blood...

. Upon investigating the town, the Wildfire team discovers that the residents either died in mid-stride or went "quietly nuts" and committed bizarre suicides. Two Piedmont inhabitants, the sick, Sterno
Sterno
Sterno is a fuel made from denatured and jellied alcohol. It is designed to be burned directly from its can. Its primary uses are in the food service industry for buffet heating and in the home for fondue and as a chafing fuel for heating chafing dishes...

-addicted, geriatric Peter Jackson; and the constantly bawling infant, Jamie Ritter, are biologic opposites who somehow survived the organism.

The man, infant, and satellite are taken to the secret underground Wildfire laboratory, a secure facility equipped with every known capacity for protection against a biological element escaping into the atmosphere, including a nuclear weapon to incinerate the facility if necessary. Wildfire is hidden in a remote area near the fictional town of Flatrock, Nevada
Nevada
Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

, sixty miles from Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Nevada and is also the county seat of Clark County, Nevada. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city for gambling, shopping, and fine dining. The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous...

 using a sort of purloined letter approach
The Purloined Letter
"The Purloined Letter" is a short story by American author Edgar Allan Poe. It is the third of his three detective stories featuring the fictional C. Auguste Dupin, the other two being "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt". These stories are considered to be important...

, by locating it in the sub-basements of a legitimate Department of Agriculture
United States Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food...

 research station.

Further investigation determines that the bizarre deaths were caused by a crystal-structured, extraterrestrial microbe on a meteor that crashed into the satellite, knocking it from orbit. The microbe contains chemical elements required for terrestrial life, but lacks DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

, RNA
RNA
Ribonucleic acid , or RNA, is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life....

, proteins, and amino acid
Amino acid
Amino acids are molecules containing an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side-chain that varies between different amino acids. The key elements of an amino acid are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen...

s, yet it directly transforms matter to energy and vice versa.

The microbe, code named "Andromeda", mutates with each growth cycle, changing its biologic properties. The scientists learn that Andromeda grows only within a narrow pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 range; in a too-acid or too-basic growth medium, it will not multiply — Andromeda's pH range is 7.39–7.43, like that of human blood. That is why Jackson and Ritter survived: both had abnormal blood pH. However, by the time the scientists realize that, Andromeda's current mutation degrades the plastic shield and escapes its containment. Trapped in an Andromeda-contaminated laboratory, Dr. Burton demands that Stone inject him with Kalocin ("the universal antibiotic"); Stone refuses, arguing it would render Burton too vulnerable to infection by other harmful bacteria. Burton survives because Andromeda has already mutated to nonlethal form.

The mutated Andromeda attacks the neoprene
Neoprene
Neoprene or polychloroprene is a family of synthetic rubbers that are produced by polymerization of chloroprene. Neoprene in general has good chemical stability, and maintains flexibility over a wide temperature range...

 door and hatch seals within the Wildfire complex, racing to the upper levels and the surface. The self-destruction atomic bomb is automatically armed when it detects a containment breach, triggering its detonation countdown to incinerate all exo-biological diseases. As the bomb arms, the scientists realize that given Andromeda's ability to generate matter directly from energy, the organism would feed, reproduce, and ultimately benefit from an atomic explosion
Nuclear explosion
A nuclear explosion occurs as a result of the rapid release of energy from an intentionally high-speed nuclear reaction. The driving reaction may be nuclear fission, nuclear fusion or a multistage cascading combination of the two, though to date all fusion based weapons have used a fission device...

.

To halt the atomic detonation, Dr. Hall must insert his special key to an emergency substation anywhere in Wildfire. Unfortunately, he is trapped in an unfinished section with no substation. He must navigate Wildfire's obstacle course of automatic defenses to reach a working substation on an upper level. He barely disarms the bomb in time. Andromeda eventually mutates to a benign form and is suspected to have migrated to the upper atmosphere, where the oxygen content is lower, better suiting Andromeda's growth.

The novel's epilogue reveals that a manned spacecraft, Andros V, was incinerated during atmospheric re-entry, because Andromeda Strain ate the plastic heat shield of Andros V and caused it to burn up.

Odd-Man Hypothesis


The "Odd-Man Hypothesis" is a fictional hypothesis
Hypothesis
A hypothesis is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. The term derives from the Greek, ὑποτιθέναι – hypotithenai meaning "to put under" or "to suppose". For a hypothesis to be put forward as a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it...

 articulated in the novel's story and named in the film. In the novel, the Odd-Man explanation is a page in a RAND Corporation
RAND
RAND Corporation is a nonprofit global policy think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the United States armed forces by Douglas Aircraft Company. It is currently financed by the U.S. government and private endowment, corporations including the healthcare industry, universities...

 report of the results of test series wherein different people (married, unmarried men and women) were to make command decisions in nuclear and biological wars and chemical crises. This is in the film:
The Odd-Man Hypothesis states that unmarried men are better able to execute the best, most dispassionate decisions in crises—in this case, to disarm the nuclear weapon intended to prevent the escape of organisms from the laboratory in the event the auto-destruct sequence is initiated.

Statistics follow, Group: Index of Effectiveness: 0.343 for married men, 0.824 for single, male scientists, et cetera; then each scientist's command decision effectiveness index: Stone 0.687, Burton 0.543, Kirke 0.614, Leavitt 0.601, and Hall 0.899; thus, Dr. Hall is given the key to halt the Wildfire Laboratory's automated self-destruction, should it become necessary. Moreover, considering Hall's knowledge of electrolytes (a field in which Kirke also specializes), Leavitt admits that the Odd-Man Hypothesis is essentially why Hall was drafted to the Wildfire team.

In the book, Stone admits the Odd-Man Hypothesis was essentially a complicated work of fiction created to justify handing over a nuclear weapon to private individuals (the Wildfire team).

In both book and film, Hall is briefed on the Hypothesis after his arrival at Wildfire. In the film, he is criticized for failure to read the material ahead of time, while in the book, his copy of the briefing materials has the Hypothesis pages removed.

This fabrication of scientific documentation (numbers, charts, etc.) is part of the false document
False document
A false document is a literary technique employed to create verisimilitude in a work of fiction. By inventing and inserting documents that appear to be factual, an author tries to create a sense of authenticity beyond the normal and expected suspension of disbelief for a work of art...

 literary technique
Literary technique
A literary technique is any element or the entirety of elements a writer intentionally uses in the structure of their work...

.

Main characters

  • Dr. Jeremy Stone - Professor of Bacteriology at the University of California at Berkeley; a Nobel Prize winner. (In 1984, the real Dr. Jeremy Stone
    Jeremy Stone
    Jeremy J. Stone was president of the Federation of American Scientists from 1970 to 2000, where he led that organization's advocacy initiatives in arms control, human rights, and foreign policy. In 2000, he was succeeded as president by Dr. Henry Kelly. Stone continued his work at a new...

     expressed complete surprise that Crichton had named the lead character for him.)
  • Dr. Charles Burton - Professor of pathology at the Baylor College of Medicine
    Baylor College of Medicine
    Baylor College of Medicine, located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas, USA, is a highly regarded medical school and leading center for biomedical research and clinical care...

  • Dr. Peter Leavitt - Clinical microbiologist; suffers from epilepsy
    Epilepsy
    Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

  • Dr. Mark Hall - Medical doctor and surgeon
  • Dr. Christian Kirke - Anthropologist and electrolytes specialist; does not participate in Wildfire project due to illness

Adaptations


In 1971, The Andromeda Strain was the basis for the film of the same name
The Andromeda Strain (film)
The Andromeda Strain is a 1971 American science-fiction film, based on the novel published in 1969 by Michael Crichton. The film is about a team of scientists who investigate a deadly organism of extraterrestrial origin that causes rapid, fatal blood clotting. Directed by Robert Wise, the film...

 directed by Robert Wise
Robert Wise
Robert Earl Wise was an American sound effects editor, film editor, film producer and director...

, and featuring Arthur Hill
Arthur Hill (actor)
Arthur Edward Spence Hill was a Canadian actor best known for appearances in British and American theater, movies and television...

 as Stone, James Olson
James Olson (actor)
-Life and career:Olson was born in Evanston, Illinois and graduated from Northwestern University. He performed stage work in and around Chicago before his 1956 film debut in The Sharkfighters...

 as Hall, Kate Reid
Kate Reid
Kate Reid, OC was a Canadian stage, film and television actress.-Life and career:Daphne Kate Reid was born in London, England, the daughter of Canadian parents, Helen Isabel and Walter Clarke Reid, who was a former Bengal Lancer in the Indian army and a retired colonel...

 as Leavitt (changed to a female character, Ruth Leavitt), and David Wayne
David Wayne
David Wayne was an American actor with a career spanning nearly 50 years.-Early life and career:...

 as Dutton (Burton in the novel).

In 2008, The Andromeda Strain was the basis for an eponymous miniseries
The Andromeda Strain (2008 miniseries)
The Andromeda Strain is a 2008 science fiction miniseries, based on the novel published in 1969 by Michael Crichton about a team of scientists who investigate a deadly disease of extraterrestrial origin. The miniseries is more of a "reimagining" of the original Michael Crichton novel than an...

 executive-produced by Ridley
Ridley Scott
Sir Ridley Scott is an English film director and producer. His most famous films include The Duellists , Alien , Blade Runner , Legend , Thelma & Louise , G. I...

 and Tony Scott
Tony Scott
Anthony D. L. "Tony" Scott is an English film director. His films include Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Man on Fire, Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Unstoppable...

 and Frank Darabont
Frank Darabont
Frank Darabont is a Hungarian-American film director, screenwriter and producer who has been nominated for three Academy Awards and a Golden Globe. He has directed the films The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist, all based on stories by Stephen King...

, and featuring Benjamin Bratt
Benjamin Bratt
Benjamin Bratt is an American actor. He is most famous for his role as Rey Curtis on the TV series Law & Order; and his appearances in the movies Blood in Blood Out, Miss Congeniality, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Traffic, and Piñero.-Early life:Bratt was born in San Francisco, California,...

 as Stone. Other characters' names and personalities were radically changed from the novel.

Musically, the novel's wider, cultural influence is evidenced in the science fiction, death metal
Death metal
Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal. It typically employs heavily distorted guitars, tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, blast beat drumming, minor keys or atonality, and complex song structures with multiple tempo changes....

 band Nocturnus
Nocturnus
Nocturnus was an American progressive death metal band formed in Tampa, Florida in 1987 by drummer/vocalist Mike Browning . They were known for their science-fiction themed lyrics and use of keyboards, both of which were virtually unknown in extreme metal...

 who sing, inspired by the novel, the "Andromeda Strain" on their début album, The Key; the Progressive metal
Progressive metal
Progressive metal is a subgenre of heavy metal originating in the United Kingdom and North America in the late 1980s...

 band Shadow Gallery
Shadow Gallery
Shadow Gallery is an American progressive metal band formed in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, United States, during the early 1980s, originally under the name Sorcerer. After changing their name to Shadow Gallery and recording a short 8-track demo, the band was signed to Magna Carta Records in 1991...

 have a song titled "The Andromeda Strain," about genetically engineered biological weapons, on their album Room V
Room V
Room V is the fifth album by the progressive metal group Shadow Gallery, released in 2005 . It continues the story started in Tyranny, picking up after Tyranny's Act II....

; and Klaus Schulze
Klaus Schulze
Klaus Schulze is a German electronic music composer and musician. He also used the alias Richard Wahnfried. He was briefly a member of the electronic bands Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel before launching a solo career consisting of more than 60 albums released across five decades.-1970s:In...

 has a concert recording titled "Andromeda Strain." In 1995, an independent band from Indianapolis, Indiana named themselves Odd Man and released a CD entitled Hypothesis in reference to the fictional hypothesis contained in the story.

Reception


Reviews for The Andromeda Strain were overwhelmingly positive, and the novel was an American Bestseller, establishing Michael Crichton as a respected novelist and science-fiction writer.

The Pittsburgh Press said it was "Relentlessly suspenseful... A hair-raising experience."

Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Free Press is the largest daily newspaper in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The Sunday edition is entitled the Sunday Free Press. It is sometimes informally referred to as the "Freep"...

 called it "Hideously plausible suspense... [that] will glue you to your chair.'

Library Journal
Library Journal
Library Journal is a trade publication for librarians. It was founded in 1876 by Melvil Dewey . It reports news about the library world, emphasizing public libraries, and offers feature articles about aspects of professional practice...

 said The Andromeda Strain was "One of the most important novels of the year (1969)."

The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

s Christopher Lehmann-Haupt said "Tired out by a long day in the country, I was awake way past bedtime. My arms were numb from propping up my head. By turning from side to side, I had driven the cats from their place at the foot of the bed, and they were disgruntled. I was very likely disturbing my wife's sleep. But I was well into Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain. And he had me convinced it was all really happening."