As I mentioned here
, my 12½ y/o daughter "...is studying the category of Science Fiction in her English class.".
She's just read A for Andromeda
, and written a review about it. I had never read the book, though I well recall having seen a recording of the BBC's serialisation of the made-for-TV script (the book was written after
Here's the review. It's not too bad, doesn't give the plot away, and made me want to read the book.
From Andromeda comes a message unlike any other. What is it? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure, you will enjoy reading this book.
Written by two fabulous authors Fred Hoyle and John Elliot in 1962, A for Andromeda
is about a group of scientists at a new satellite base who pick up a mysterious code from another galaxy. Follow them and their gripping twelve chapter journey trying to solve the code in A for Andromeda
The book begins with the young scientist Dr Fleming at a newly-built British satellite research base. A few days after its construction, a mysterious binary code is picked up by the base, coming from the distant Andromeda nebula. Over a few months, Dr Fleming deciphers the code. Surprisingly, it is a set of instructions to build a supercomputer unlike any other. Once built, the computer is examined by the British prime minister. The computer is started by the prime minister and the code from Andromeda is fed into it. Fleming and the other scientists wait for hours, but nothing seems to be happening until – to their relief – after ten hours, a string of messages asking several questions is printed out by the computer.
Answers to the questions are fed in to the computer, and, uplifted by the initial success of the computer, the scientists wait with bated breath for the next instructions. Soon the computer gathers an unprecedented level of knowledge about life on earth. Then it gives instructions on building a life form of its own specifications. Dr Dawnay, a friend of Fleming’s bosses, is ordered in to help with creating the life form in Fleming’s lab. A simple creature is made a few months later. Its insides and skin look like green gelatinous goo. The creature has one distinctive feature - a small orb at the top of its body that acts as its eye. The scientists, especially Dr Fleming, dislike the creature and name it Cyclops. Fleming grows slightly suspicious of the computer and tries to limit the amount of information fed into it, but his colleagues refuse to acknowledge his concerns and continue to think up new ways to utilise this marvellous computer. Fleming is extremely angry and frustrated. This quote is from when the scientists try to create Cyclops:
The cell elongated into two lobes which stretched and broke apart, and then each lobe broke again into two new cells.
“It’s reproducing!” Dawnay leant back and watched the screen, “We’ve made life!”
Fleming was standing up watching the screen intently. “How are you going to stop it?”
“I’m not going to stop it. I want to see what it does.”
“It’s developing into quite a coherent structure.” Reinhart observed.
Fleming clenched his fists up on the table, “Kill it!”
“What?” Dawnay looked at him in mild surprise.
“Kill it while you can.”
“It’s perfectly well under control.”
“Is it? Look at the way it’s growing.” Fleming pointed at the rapidly doubling mass of cells on the screen. “Kill it.”
Fleming looked around at their anxious unyielding faces, and then back at the screen. He picked up the heavy container in which the tea had been brought and smashed it down on the viewing plate of the microscope. A clatter of metal and glass ran through the hushed room.
The viewing panel went dead.
After creating Cyclops, the computer quickly progressed to growing a human. A strikingly beautiful woman rapidly develops from a baby born in the lab, modelled on the likeness of a co-worker who died a number of months ago, under suspicious circumstances. They name the woman Andromeda, and she is given schooling, and the scientists soon find that her mental capacity is larger than most humans, and she soon soaks up whatever she is taught, like a sponge. Realising that Andromeda is genius-level, certain people wish to use her advanced skills.
Soon, other nations find out about the computer and become fearful of this alien technology in the hands of the British government. Some nations decide that the only way to reassert their global dominance is by the use of scare tactics, but the British government decides to utilise Andromeda’s intelligence to demonstrate their power.
With Britain looking to become a world power once again and thus with an increasing reliance on the strange supercomputer, Fleming begins to suspect again that the computer is not all that it might seem to be. It may perhaps have other more cynical ideas for the human race.
Fleming sets out to destroy the very programme he helped to create, but the supercomputer is not going out without a fight.A for Andromeda
is a story about another intelligence, alien to ourselves, and about what could happen if we did make contact with such an intelligence from a distant part of the universe.
It also deals with themes such as mankind’s increasing reliance on technology, and his never-ending quest for dominance and power, and also the ideas of First Contact, and good versus evil.A for Andromeda
is one of the best science fiction books I have read in a while, and I warn you that this book will have you hooked until the bitter end. It uses some sophisticated language and some description which helps the story along. Overall the plot was excellent.
My only negative point would be how time does not seem to exist in this story, but that bit you will have to find out for yourself.
My overall rating of A for Andromeda
is four and a half stars out of five.
The computer and genetic technology described could have been difficult to believe at the time when the book was written, but is more readily believable today as we have moved towards having aspects of that technology now anyway. The science in the story seems accurate (one of the authors, Fred Hoyle was a scientist), except it glosses over the impossibility of communicating with a galaxy some 200 lightyears distant.
I would recommend this engrossing book for all people of 13 and over.