Michael Crichton's 1969 novel could be called one of the first "techno-thriller" novels that have assumed so much popularity in recent years.

In The Andromeda Strain, a crashed satellite releases a deadly virus in a small Arizona town- a virus so lethal that it kills at a single breath... by coagulating all of the victim's blood nearly instantly. A virus that spares some people, only to drive them hopelessly insane. In one of the most riveting passages in the novel, Crichton describes the insane victims' suicides: a teen who chokes himself to death with model-airplane cement, a man who holds his own head under water until he dies, a woman who thinks the day of judgement is at hand and hangs herself, a housewife who immolates herself. Only two people have survived: an old junk-addicted wino and an infant.

With the virus being carried by the wind toward the larges cities of the west coast, a team of crack scientists brought to a top-secret government research facility have only four days to find a way to stop the spread of the virus. The process through which they examine the virus is a remarkable example of modern hard science-fiction, with graphs, computer printouts, and electron-density diagrams. Although the final tension-filled climax sputters to an end, with an ending reminiscent of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, the novel itself is very rewarding and always interesting.

The Andromeda Strain explores the familiar territory of scientific ambition gone mad, introducing nefarious government conspiracy theories into the mix. It seems the satellite in question was expressly designed to collect extraterrestial microorganisms to be developed into biological weapons.

Crichton presents the novel as an authentic, top-secret dossier recording the incident, beginning the acknowledgements section with "this book recounts the five-day history of a major American scientific crisis," and includes dozens of bibliographic references, which were either used to research the topic of the book, or were fabricated to make it look more authentic. Some, at least, are legit- I found them referenced on the internet, so I believe that the former theory is true.

A movie of the same name was made in 1971, and it is quite faithful to the novel. The movie is quite enjoyable, and was nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Editing Oscars in 1971. It is 127 minutes long and is rated G. Directed by Robert Wise.

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