So I picked up a book called The Andromeda Strain yesterday while waiting for the Beloved Husband to get home. It sounded pretty interesting – mysterious, infectious disease thing from space wipes out a small town almost instantly,  leaving only two unlikely survivors. It’s up to a team of genius government scientists to figure out what kept the two survivors from dying in time to prevent the malignancy from spreading and wiping out the planet. The reviews on this book make it sound like some Sci-Fi Horror Thriller, so I prepared myself for the spooky and bizarre and settled in to read…

Aaaand proceeded to wade through several hundred pages of story written in the same dry style as a mission report or Discovery Channel documentary.

See, much like Moby Dick and Heart of Darkness, this book should have been interesting… it just wasn’t. One of the puzzling facts about the extraterrestrial plague is that it kills some victims instantly by clotting all of the blood within their bodies, while it kills others by driving them mad – causing them to commit suicide. That facet of the plot was really interesting… and mostly skimmed over. Instead, readers are trapped in a top-secret quarantine lab with the team of scientists, watching them run experiment after experiment on lab rats and monkeys… not quite as interesting as being at Ground Zero. Though, I suppose that, once everyone is dead, being in a ghost town would be just as boring as being in a completely clean lab (the security measures, while realistic, make it impossible for the disease to break out, thus removing a big source of suspense).

One of my professors once said, “Reading a good book or play makes the reader feel like they were in exactly the right place at the right time to catch all the excitement.” In my opinion, this book failed there, in that I was constantly waiting to get out of the lab and see the plague in action.  At one point, one of the survivors regained consciousness long enough to tell the scientists what happened in the town – my reaction was, “Oh, I wish I’d been there to see it!”.  That’s kind of the opposite of what the author would want readers to feel.

The biggest failing of the book, though, was the ending. In a word, anticlimactic. I actually did check to see if someone had ripped pages out of the book or something. I won’t give the particulars  of this disappointing ending, just in case you decide to read the book despite my unenthusiastic review, but let me just say, it really left me cold, wondering, “Is that it? Is that how it ends?”

Anyways, between the dry writing, the constant reminders that the scientists were wrong (literally, the narrator would tell us, “So-and-so would test thus-and-so, thinking that the disease worked this way. He was wrong, but would not realize this for another 48 hours. Such a pity.” I’m not even kidding), and the poor placement of the reader, this book was a real let-down. I had hoped for so much more…

The Andromeda Strain
Copyright © 1969 by Centesis Corporation

Advertisements