#ScifiMonth Book Review: The Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson and Michael Crichton
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 of Andromeda
Publisher: Harper (November 12, 2019)
Length: 384 pages
To start, I read The Andromeda Strain a long time ago. Admittedly, it wasn’t one of my favorites by Michael Crichton, and I can’t say I remembered much from it at all. Personally, I wouldn’t have pegged it for being sequel-worthy, but here we are, fifty years after the book was published, commemorating it with The Andromeda Evolution…and well, I’m sold! Written in its entirety by the talented Daniel H. Wilson, who is certainly deserving of honor, this novel helped put to rest my skepticism and convinced me there was a story there. Crichton’s name is on the book because Wilson worked and built upon many of the themes the man had developed, paying tribute to his ideas and doing them justice.
As I said though, I recalled very little from the original when I started this book; it’s been more than twenty years since I read The Andromeda Strain and my memory just isn’t that great. That said, I had no problems getting into The Andromeda Evolution, as the narrative does a very good job recapping everything that had happened. Decades have passed since the original team of scientists discovered Andromeda, a highly virulent microorganism of extraterrestrial origin that caused instantaneous death through blood clotting. The government attempted to contain it in a subterranean bunker, but Andromeda ultimately evolved to breach its containment and escape. Despite its highly destructive nature though, by then the microorganism’s traits had been altered to the point was no longer harmful to humans.
Still, the US military is taking no chances. A special team called Project Eternal Vigilance had been created to do exactly as its name implies—keep watch, 24/7, for any sign of Andromeda’s return. And for a while, it seemed humanity was safe. Nearly half a century has gone by, and Eternal Vigilance has found nothing. But just as the project was on the verge of being shut down, a mapping drone flying over the rainforests of Brazil sends back reports of a disturbing anomaly found in the middle of the Amazon. Unfortunately, preliminary tests of its chemical signature confirm everyone’s worst fears—Andromeda is back, and its behavior is evolving in ways no one can predict.
In some ways, the first half of this novel can be viewed a parallel to the early events of The Andromeda Strain. Once more, we start off with the dispatching of a group of scientists, a second Project Wildfire, updated to suit today’s diverse society and workforce. But after the intro, the story swiftly develops a personality of its own, while still adhering to the foundation of the original tale. The beginning is also very technical, written in a debrief report-style format and tone that is meant to be informative rather than literary. Some of it is eerily reminiscent of Crichton’s own writing when he used to do this in some of his books, and I can’t help but feel that maybe this is Wilson’s way of paying homage.
I also thought perhaps it was a good thing that I did not recall much from the original novel. Of course, bits and pieces came rushing back as I was reading, but for the most part, I felt like I was experiencing something completely new. A few elements struck me as familiar, like the story structure or the technology and the diagrams, but on the whole I was thrilled with the freshness and surprises of The Andromeda Evolution. Wilson was working heavily off many of Crichton’s ideas, but he’s something of a dab hand himself when it comes to the techno-thriller genre. For one thing, he knows how to get technical without overwhelming the reader, and he’s also good at balancing all that hard science with the storytelling aspects, which is how you get epistolary chapters and embedded scientific reports that are as riveting to read as the survivalist scenes of our characters trying to make it out of the jungle.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this one a lot, and to be honest, I didn’t think I would. Sure, going into the book blind and not knowing what to expect might have helped a little, but it didn’t take long for me to become genuinely impressed. The Andromeda Evolution perfectly encapsulates everything I love about a Michael Crichton novel while still sporting its own unique flair and special energy, so my hat’s off to Daniel H. Wilson for pulling it off!