The Andromeda Evolution is a fast-moving techno-thriller that feels oddly prescient

  • The Andromeda Evolution, by Michael Crichton with Daniel H. Wilson. HarperCollins. $32.99.

The Crichton estate, when they commissioned Daniel H. Wilson to write The Andromeda Evolution to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Michael Crichton's iconic novel The Andromeda Strain, could not have anticipated the arrival of the coronavirus in 2020. The idea of a global pandemic spelling the end of the human race is a sobering fictional backdrop to present-day viral reality.

The Andromeda Strain traced the aftermath of a satellite crash in the small town of Piedmont, Arizona and the threatened spread of an extraterrestrial microbe that could obliterate all life on Earth.

Fears that the Andromeda microbe may not have disappeared entirely subsequently led to the establishment of Project Eternal Vigilance to scan for any possible new outbreaks of the strain. They are now called into action after a Chinese satellite crashes in the Amazon.

A 'Wildfire Alert' is issued after chemical "signature peaks" closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain are detected, which become physically associated with a metallic-looking shape growing out of the jungle, "the whole of it gleaming like a beetle's waxy shell in the rising midday sun".

A small multicultural, and somewhat dysfunctional scientific and military team, including roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain, are quickly assembled and sent into the Amazon jungle. They are assisted from the International Space Station by Sophie Kline, a paraplegic nanorobotics expert, who has ideas of her own as to how to save humanity and will be a key figure in the plot.

Best-selling author of the 2011 novel Robopocalypse, Daniel Wilson has a doctorate in robotics which he uses to full effect in a rollercoaster narrative packed with accessible scientific data in the style of Crichton. When Wilson was commissioned to write the sequel he said it was "a dream come true", as space seemed a natural place to set the sequel given much of the original novel was set underground.

Wilson met with NASA scientific staff and this collective expertise shows in the detailed background of the space station action as the fate of the Earth again hangs from a thread with the Andromeda strain reverse engineering.

Daniel Wilson has admirably fulfilled his commission, delivering a fast-moving techno thriller, which leaves the way open for another novel when, in the last paragraph, Andromeda radio signals are detected emanating from Saturn.

The Andromeda Evolution reaffirms wider messages, like our inability "to focus on long-term existential threats that will lead to the destruction of our environment, overpopulation and resource exhaustion".