Review: A for Andromeda / Author: Fred Hoyle and John Elliot / Published by: Souvenir Press Ltd / Release Date: Out Now
First published in 1962 as a novel adaption for a BBC TV series, A for Andromeda is a must-read for any discerning science fiction fan. Written by cosmologist Fred Hoyle and television producer John Elliot; A for Andromeda is the thinking man’s alien invasion of earth.
Fred Hoyle’s involvement has lent the book and the TV series a certain amount of credibility which sets it apart from other works of the same genre. There’s hard science and simple logic behind the narrative, and when combined with John Elliot’s ability to tell a story results in a winning combination and an excellent read.
A for Andromeda begins with an alien message beamed to Earth from the distant Andromeda Nebula. The message is deciphered by a young scientist, John Flemming, who reveals it to be a set of instructions for the construction of an advanced supercomputer, the likes of which has never been seen before.
Once built, the computer gathers an unprecedented level of knowledge about life on earth and the intellectual capacity of man, then gives instructions on building a form of life of its very own. A simple creature is made first – named Cyclops, for the single orb that sits upon its body of gelatinous goo - but the computer quickly progresses to growing humans. A striking young woman named Andromeda is soon born from the biological labs, modelled on the exact likeness of a former worker who died under suspicious circumstances.
Other nations, fearful of this alien technology in the hands of the British government, employ scare tactics to reassert their global dominance, and the government turn to Andromeda for help. With Britain looking to become a world power once again and increasingly reliant on this strange supercomputer, Flemming begins to suspect that the computer isn’t all it might seem to be. It has perhaps other ideas for the human race. He sets about trying to derail the very program he helped create, but the supercomputer isn’t going out without a fight and the stage is set for an epic confrontation between man and machine.
A for Andromeda is a cold, calculating look at intelligences other than ours made all the more sinister by the distant and detached character of Andromeda. It deals with themes such as mankind’s reliance on technology and our never-ending quest to better ourselves, consequences be damned.
This is a story often emulated in science fiction today, one which is familiar to all of us in some form or other. But it’s worth remembering that this is the original and, as is often the case with originals, the best.