Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Michael Crichton profoundly influenced the science-fiction genre decades ago with The Andromeda Strain, and over fifty years later, in 2020, the sequel titled The Andromeda Evolution, co-written with Daniel H. Wilson was posthumously published. The story takes us decades into the future, where humanity had just about forgotten about the deadly microparticle which almost brought about total extinction, when it suddenly reappears in the Brazilian jungle.
Table of contents
Michael Crichton and Daniel H. Wilson Bring the Threat Back
Of all the different ways in which the world could end (or at least, human life on Earth), I personally find the bacterial apocalypse to be the most frightening and insidious one. Pitting us against a potentially-real enemy we can hardly detect, it’s the stuff nightmares are made of, as Michael Crichton explored in The Andromeda Strain over fifty years ago. Now, the story continues in the posthumously-published sequel, The Andromeda Evolution, co-written with Daniel H. Wilson.
The story takes us decades into the future into what we can essentially consider as our modern-day present. Years and years have passed since the previous team of top scientists managed to contain the Andromeda strain crisis, saving all of humanity right before a catastrophic nuclear explosion, and life continued as it always had before.
Naturally, numerous resources are spent to monitor our space for the reappearance of the deadly microparticle, but for over fifty years literally no detection has occurred. The government is just about to pull the plug from the project for all the resources it drains without yielding results, when a terrifying discovery is made in the Brazilian jungle.
A terrain-mapping drone has discovered a bizarre otherworldly anomaly, and infinitely worse, the signature of the deadly strain which nearly brought humanity to its knees. With humanity being better-prepared this time, they activate Project Wildfire, bringing the world’s greatest minds together to tackle the threat.
However, the strain in question isn’t standing still… on the contrary, it is evolving, growing ever-more-efficient and becoming a mortal danger to the human species. The task at hand is much more difficult than last time out, pitting the scientists against a shifting and unpredictable enemy, one well-poised to snuff out life not only on Earth, but wherever else it might exist.
Of all the ways you can limit yourself, your own self-definition is the most powerful.― Michael Crichton & Daniel H. Wilson, The Andromeda Evolution
Taking the Battle to the Microbe in The Andromeda Evolution
To begin with, I think the most important aspect to address about this novel is its posthumous publication, largely because such works often tend to underwhelm their readers compared to the originals they are following. Though I think it is clear enough that The Andromeda Evolution isn’t a one hundred percent Crichton original, in my opinion, Daniel H. Wilson managed quite well with what he had to work with.
Now, I’ll admit, I have no idea how much of the story Michael Crichton had written before he passed away, but it feels to me like Wilson did have a lot of materials on which to base his own writing, which for the most part, imitates Crichton‘s style quite well. Where the main differences lie, however, is in just how tightly the story is bound together, and the general direction it takes.
With this being a sequel, it goes without saying that the stakes need to be raised some for it to be interesting, which is a bit of a tall order considering the protagonists of the first book fought for humanity’s survival. The authors do more or less manage it by pitting us against a strain which now has the valuable ability to rapidly evolve, but on the whole, much of the fantastic and scientific mystery from the first book is gone.
Instead, we get more thrills and action as the team of Project Wildfire’s scientists is escorted to the anomaly by a group of mercenaries, encountering lethal dangers along the way. Even though it was all well-written in my opinion, the beats followed by the story during the earlier parts do feel a little predictable and cliched at times. Mind you, that doesn’t mean they failed to entertain.
I do think it was a good idea to now put the scientists on the offensive, so-to-speak, and push them closer to the mystery at the heart of the strain, and leading to a few genuinely-clever plot twists along the way. In the second half of The Andromeda Evolution, at least in my opinion, the story falls closer in line with what we would expect from a Michael Crichton novel.
Presidents and generals and all the important people in position to make the most important decisions are, by and large, the least equipped for making them.― Michael Crichton & Daniel H. Wilson, The Andromeda Evolution
The idea of us falling victims to toxic molecules and deadly micro-substances isn’t anything new, but I would argue it has become increasingly plausible due to our rapid scientific evolution, and perhaps even more poignant, in light of the worldwide pandemic. In The Andromeda Evolution, if nothing else, Michael Crichton and Daniel H. Wilson hammer home the point of how paralyzingly horrifying the perspective is.
The moments which reminded me of the first novel the most were certainly the more scientific sections where the authors went into greater detail about the strain, its inner workings, how it evolves, and why precisely it poses such a gargantuan threat to all life which might exist. This is a pure guess, but it felt to me like such sections are more attributable to Crichton‘s handiwork, than Wilson‘s.
As a matter of fact, the authors do take fairly great pains in trying to ensure the events they present to us are all as scientifically-plausible as possible. Yes, there are some inevitable elements of fiction to be found, but on the whole, they did a good job in explaining how the novel’s occurrences might be mirrored in the real world, making them just that much more interesting.
I do have to say that once we reach the latter parts of the book, things do start to go off the rails, so-to-speak, in terms of how plausible everything is. As the actions ramps up you are asked to suspend your disbelief increasingly often, and while it’s all good fun, in my opinion the book does suffer for all the more meticulous and believable details it set up previously. If I had to guess, I’d say this is more the work of Daniel H. Wilson, than Crichton himself.
With this being said, there’s often a give-and-take process when such decisions are made in storytelling, and in this case, the plot benefits by becoming generally more entertaining. Veering into the unbelievable also brought with it a more frantic pace and impressive dangers for our characters to deal with, imbuing it with the qualities of a strong thriller, which ultimately made the story a lot of fun, despite its shortcomings.
|384||Harper Paperbacks||Nov. 17, 2020||978-0062473295|
The Final Verdict
The Andromeda Evolution by Michael Crichton and Daniel H. Wilson may not prove to be as revolutionary of a scientific thriller as its predecessor, but it nevertheless remains an entertaining and (majorly) scientifically-plausible adventure.
If you’ve enjoyed the first part of the story, or are in search of a profound, believable and solid sci-fi series dealing with the concept of a deadly alien microbe, then this is definitely a book you ought to check out.
John Michael Crichton
(October 23rd, 1942 – November 4th, 2008)
John Michael Crichton was an American author and filmmaker whose books sold for over 200 million copies and been adapted into films on over a dozen occasions. The awards and accolades he received are too numerous to list in their entirety, but among them are the 1969 Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel for A Case of Need, not to mention he wrote some timeless classics such as The Great Train Robbery and Jurassic Park.
Daniel H. Wilson
Daniel H. Wilson is a New York Times bestselling author, robotics engineer and television host residing in Portland, Oregon. Some of his best-received titles include How to Survive a Robot Uprising, How to Build a Robot Army, Amped and The Clockwork Dynasty.