As sequels go, The Andromeda Evolution is the product of quite unusual circumstances. It follows The Andromeda Strain, which was written in 1969 and put author Michael Crichton on the map as a top science fiction writer. Crichton, of course, went on to write multiple bestselling novels, including Jurassic Park, as well as the television series ER. These works along with others make him arguably the greatest science fiction writer of the 20th century.
He died in 2008, though, so The Andromeda Evolution, due for release on November 12, is actually a collaboration between Crichton’s estate and author Daniel H. Wilson.
“As a lifelong fan of Michael Crichton, it’s been an unbelievable honor to revisit the iconic world that he created and to continue this adventure,” Wilson said in a release. “It’s a testament to Crichton’s genius that the originality of The Andromeda Strain is just as exciting and relatable now as it was on the day it was first published.”
What Wilson accomplishes with his Evolution extends beyond merely honoring its preceding work, though. The Andromeda Strain told the story of a top-secret team of scientists, known as Project Wildfire, that must race against the clock to stop the spread of a microbe that could destroy mankind. Told in the form on official record of a “real” incident, the novel was a fast-moving account that took off immediately and left open the potential for a future continuation via advanced iterations of the invasive organism.
In The Andromeda Evolution, the threat has continued to evolve in secret. Wilson again presents the story as a sort of after-action report of the efforts of a new edition of the Wildfire team, which includes the son of an original member. A sign of the times, the team is more diverse, and more time is spent presenting the background and motivations of each scientist. While this makes the sequel a bit of a slower-starting narrative than its predecessor, it accomplishes something perhaps more important for the novel’s place in Crichton’s legacy.
Even though The Andromeda Strain established Crichton as an author, it lacked a key feature of later works like Jurassic Park and Timeline. The microbe itself was the lone antagonist, threatening the future of mankind, with human characters balancing their own skills to work toward its demise. Crichton would later develop a knack for emulating the way human desires and motivations would tempt individuals to use revolutionary technology in nefarious ways.
In this way, Wilson excels at tying the Andromeda story to other key works in Crichton’s collection. Not only has the strain developed in a more threatening way, but not everyone who has been tasked with stopping it has the same altruistic reasons for involvement in the project. Additionally, instead of the team’s work taking place in a sterile underground laboratory, the scientists must navigate an ecological hotbed where their actions could have severe political implications. There’s also the additional wrinkle of the involvement of studies aboard the International Space Station.
Wilson masterfully expands the Andromeda universe in The Andromeda Evolution. Like the original, the book’s presentation as a scientific report allows for some straightforward foreshadowing that would be too heavy-handed in another format, but in context, it creates an enjoyable degree of anticipation. And taking the story into a broader context with a more volatile mix of characters and motivations gives the sequel depth and tension that The Andromeda Strain often lacked.
This is not the first attempt to add to the Crichton catalog posthumously. His family has previously published works like Pirate Latitudes that were discovered as transcripts he had yet to release, if he ever intended to do so.
Despite not involving the actual writing of the original author himself, though, fans of Crichton and The Andromeda Strain will enjoy The Andromeda Evolution. Whether Wilson continues to add to the Crichton legacy or not, his first effort to do so was a successful one.