THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION / AUTHOR: DANIEL H. WILSON / PUBLISHER: HARPER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
To celebrate five decades since Michael Crichton’s celebrated viral thriller The Andromeda Strain was first published, author Daniel H. Wilson has penned an official sequel. With the approval of the Crichton estate, Andromeda Evolution returns to the mythos of the original deadly outbreak of the alien-borne virus fifty years later.
Since that first contact with the deadly particle was only just contained, the world’s authorities have put rigorous monitoring arrangements in place; on earth and out in space. When an automated mapping drone spots an anomalous structure in the middle of the Brazilian jungle, Project Wildfire is activated. Evidence reveals the alarming signature of the Andromeda virus. Worse still, there’s every indication that the pathogen has evolved and replicated. A quarantine team is sent to South America to uncover the truth. Over five tense days, the team tackle a crisis in which an unstoppable pandemic threatens to devastate the world.
There’s both energy and pace to Wilson’s narrative and he brings a good deal of plausible-sounding scientific rigour to proceedings. Events unfold across (and above) the globe and there’s a satisfying substance to the scale of the story. The contemporary setting means that it’s a thoroughly modern group of scientists and advisors that set out to avert calamity, much more diverse and representative than in Crichton’s original novel.
The book is comprised of a compilation of reports and official documents which punctuate the main narrative. It’s a technique intended to add realism to the story and, for the most part, it works well, but it's undermined by the attempt to reference Crichton’s novel as if it were a “real” historical account. It’s an odd kind of “meta” conceit, but it’s easily ignored.
With the clock ticking down to disaster, things build toward a “teetering on the precipice” finale. But Wilson’s instinct to intensify the drama pushes the story in some unlikely directions that feel arbitrary and misjudged. As the book is structured as a retrospective report on a “near-miss,” any sense of jeopardy evaporates; the opening paragraphs of The Andromeda Evolution confirm that humanity survives this new encounter with these virulent micro-particles.
While that outcome makes good business sense if you’re a publisher hoping to launch a new Andromeda franchise, it deflates much of the tension Wilson sets about building in these pages.