In our modern era of knowledge, we understand and remember thousands of bits of information: simple addition, grammatical sentences, historical dates, tree roots—the list goes on and on. I have found that ignorance sometimes frightens me: thinking of the incomprehensibly vast amounts of space, stars, planets, and rubble in our universe is bewildering. I am a lost cause in that way, because I cannot know everything—I am in the exact same position that five fictional scientists find themselves in when a mysterious illness strikes.
The Andromeda Strain is a terrifying tale written by Michael Crichton. When a satellite returns from the fringes of the universe with dust it has collected, it also brings an unpleasant surprise. In Piedmont, a town near the landing site of the satellite, bodies lie sprawled on the streets, eyes wide in utter surprise. But as scientists enter the town in special suits to collect the satellite, they find two survivors: a screaming baby and an old man. The terror has begun . . .
As well as being a horror story, The Andromeda Strain is a mystery. All the keys to the mystery are there—the baby and the man, a horrifying recording of a plane crash, clotted blood, and the recording of the death of two men. Yet, like a complicated puzzle, no one seems to be able to fit the pieces together. As the five scientists, who call themselves “Project Scoop,” frantically try to guess the answer, the organism behind it all quietly begins to mutate.
The adventures of Project Scoop are rendered even more frightening since the scientists don’t have any idea of what they’re up against. All the effects of the problem are there, blatantly scattered across the streets of Piedmont. But the cause? The scientists can only guess. And as one of the seals in their lab breaks, one of them approaches death—without knowing what, when, or how he’ll be killed. As I read on, I began to doubt that Project Scoop would succeed. There are too many hints that the scientists are on the wrong track.
The Andromeda Strain is both agitating and exhilarating. I have often heard the saying “ignorance is bliss,” but after reading the end of this book, I concluded the opposite—and if they existed, the scientists of Project Scoop would probably agree with me.
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