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The Andromeda Strain Essay, Research Paper

Brandon Harris

2-11-98

4th Period

The Andromeda Strain By Michael Crichton

Space truly is the final frontier. All over the world people are trying to find out as

much as possible about this region. But what if what we found in space was something

deadly? What if something came back that threatened to destroy the entire human race?

This is exactly what happened in The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton.

In the opening incident of the book, a space probe sent into the upper atmosphere

of earth crashes unexpectedly in a remote area of Arizona. The probe was sent up to

determine if there were any organisms capable of survival in space. When the probe

landed, two men from the Military were sent down to survey the area and obtain the

probe. They found the town that it had landed in was in chaos. There were bodies

everywhere. Upon driving into the town, they immediately died.

It was immediately clear that the deaths of the population of this town and the

space probe’s crash were not coincidental. A committee had been formed 5 years prior to

the incident to determine what would be done in a situation such as this one. If the

organism could not be identified and neutralized, a nuclear bomb would be detonated on

the site. Here, a man versus nature conflict begins. Clearly, the probe had brought

something back from space. A team was assembled to determine exactly what that was.

The team consisted of five men from various fields of science. Most had

forgotten about The Wildfire Project, as it was called. They were gathered from their

homes throughout the country and flown to Arizona. The team consisted of five men;

Jeremy Stone (the coordinator), Peter Leavitt (a microbiologist), Charles Burton (a

pathologist), Christian Kirke (an anthropologist) and Mark Hall (a physician). It was

thought that these men, when working together, could quickly discover the nature of the

organism and make a decision as to what would be done in destroying it.

The use of the nuclear device which the team was considering involved a very

serious decision. In order to give civilians the power to detonate such a device, the

oddman hypothesis was created. It stated that one of the members of the team be single,

and that it would be his responsibility to make the nuclear decision. He was to be given a

key that would only work for him. If a leak was detected in the examination facility, it

would be up to him to stop the detonation. The odd man of the team was Mark Hall.

This played a key factor in the climax.

The team was taken to the site of the landing. Upon examining the bodies they

discovered that this organism was actually a virus, and it acted by clotting the blood and

causing immediate death. They began to leave when they discovered that there were two

survivors, an old man and a baby. This added a new, useful factor to the equation. It

showed that this virus could be beaten.

After going through an elaborate sterilization process, they began work on the

virus. They performed many tests on the virus. They ran it through a microscope, it was

determined how large it was, it was even determined how it worked. They did tests on

the old man and the baby that had managed to survive, trying to find the link. No

connection between the two could be found.

That is when the unthinkable happened. When Burton was working on the virus,

he cut the gloves of his suit that sealed out the virus. Immediately the four men rushed to

see Burton. He was panicked, and screaming. It had been found that the virus did not

survive well in pure oxygen, so that was pumped into the room he was in. Burton

appeared to be fine, and when a sample of the virus in Burton’s area was analyzed, it was

discovered to be mutated into a harmless form. Apparently, the baby and the old man

had been lucky enough to avoid the virus until it mutated into a benign form. The

situation seemed to be under control.

But it was worse than they knew. The virus had contaminated the facility, and the

automatic nuclear detonation process had begun. If a nuclear device was set off, the

virus would mutate over and over into deadly variations, each killing in a different way.

In the climax of the story, it was up to Mark Hall to stop the detonation of the

device. He had to climb up the central core of the facility to access a station to stop the

detonation. The facility detected an unknown presence in the core and, thinking that

Mark was some sort of small lab animal that got into the core, the defense systems began

to shoot him with tranquilizer darts. As he climbed up the ladder to access the station he

was feeling very groggy, like he was a thousand pounds heavier, and everything moved in

slow motion to him. He crawled to the station, fighting the drug with all his might. He

was within two feet of the station when he began to lose consciousness.

When going into an unknown environment, be it space, a new school, a new job,

etc., there is always the potential for good and bad. But just because every now and then

bad things happen, that doesn’t mean we should stop doing new things, going new places,

and learning more.

Little is known about what kind, if any, life exists in space. Perhaps something

good exists in space, such as the cure for AIDS or cancer. Perhaps something bad exists,

that would kill millions. We will never know unless we try.


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