The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

With utmost secrecy, the U.S. government has been sending satellites into orbit to scoop up particles from outer space and bring them back to Earth to be studied. This undertaking is known as Project Scoop, and one of its purposes is to see if there are particles in outer space that are unlike anything known on Earth. Retrieval of the satellites poses a problem because no precise method of reentry exists that will bring a satellite to a predetermined landing site. Because landings can occur anywhere in the world, a system has been devised to either recover or destroy satellites, depending on whether they land in friendly or hostile territory.

One night, a satellite is tracked to Piedmont, Arizona, a remote town with a population of forty-eight. The first trackers to get there find dead bodies all over the streets. The trackers hardly have time to react before they, too, are dead. The government has prepared itself for such an emergency by having a Wildfire Alert team on call at all times. This team consists of a group of scientists with credentials in biology, bacteriology, pathology, and surgery. Wearing protective clothing, two members of this team fly to Piedmont, where they find two survivors, a baby and an old man. They also find the satellite and see that it has been pried open.

The satellite and the two survivors are flown to a top secret underground facility in Nevada known as Wildfire. This impregnable complex consists of five levels...

(The entire section is 470 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Crichton, more than any other popular novelist, is a child of the age of film. He describes things cinematicalry, as though he is looking...

(The entire section is 813 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Andromeda Strain is the archetypal modern technological thriller, the ancestor of Tom Clancy, William Gibson, Robin Cook, and a...

(The entire section is 736 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Science fiction serves a social function by extrapolating from the realities of the present to the possibilities of the future. Part of the...

(The entire section is 320 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In writing The Andromeda Strain, Crichton was influenced by four very different sources. First of all, his purpose was to emulate...

(The entire section is 184 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In The Terminal Man (1972), Crichton deals with another science-fiction theme, behavior modification through psychosurgery. Many of...

(The entire section is 190 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Ironically, while The Andromeda Strain was unmistakably written with a cinematic eye, the translation of the novel to celluloid was...

(The entire section is 53 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Crichton, Michael. Travels. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. Crichton recounts his travels throughout the world. Furnishes important insights into his personality and approaches to his fiction.

Current Biography 54 (November, 1993): 10-14. Profiles Crichton’s life and career as a novelist and filmmaker. A discussion of his novels adapted to the screen is included.

Foreman, Christopher H., Jr. “Editorial Commentary: Witchcraft Science in Cinema Epidemics.” Science Communication 17 (September, 1995): 3-5. A scientific analysis of the use of epidemics as the theme in fiction and adaptations of novels. Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain is among the earliest to exploit the epidemic theme.

Heller, Zoe. “The Admirable Crichton.” Vanity Fair 57 (January, 1994): 32-38. Profiles Crichton’s accomplishments as a writer and director.

Kipen, David. “From Potboilers to Blockbusters in Thirty Years.” Variety 364 (August 26, 1996): 20-21. Focuses on Crichton’s transition from novelist to filmmaker.

Trembley, Elizabeth A. Michael Crichton: A Critical Companion. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Trembley examines Crichton’s work. Her discussions focus primarily on individual novels, including The Andromeda Strain. Students and general readers will appreciate the sections on Crichton’s life and literary heritage as well as a useful bibliography.

Winer, Rex. “Showman of the Year.” Variety 364 (August 26, 1996): 7-10. Profiles Crichton and his career as novelist, screenwriter, and film director. Background on his career, achievements, and works as well as an analysis of his approach to storytelling are included.