01/11/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Souvenir Press Ltd. 174 page small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 8.99 (U). ISBN: 978-0-0285-63588-3).
check out website: www.souvenirpress.co.uk
It’s been a long time since I last read ‘A For Andromeda’ by Fred Hoyle and John Elliott. In Science Fiction terms, it’s the first archetypal novel of mankind receiving information from an alien race that allows them to make an alien artefact which in term yields the information to create a life-form. If you think about it, this is probably the best way to travel the stars if you can’t go yourself. What you really need is a sentient species advanced enough to receive and understand the signal and curious enough to build.
In this case, it’s we British who do this as we had the most advanced satellite dish at the time, the book was originally released in 1962, and keep the information to ourselves. A science team realise that the information enables them to build a complex computer whose data program supplied allows to create a rapidly grown amoeba create with a single eye they christen Cyclops which doesn’t do very much. With the addition of human DNA, the next version is more human in appearance, Andromeda or later Andre, is grown rapidly and although a young adult, learns rapidly. She is also attuned to the computer in a symbiotic relationship and often acts as its physical manifestation.
This is helpful as the British government and military use their information to develop a missile protection scheme and see other advantages it can provide. This doesn’t make the scientific team that happy nor stop other people nosing around in what was seen originally as a non-military operation. The alien computer isn’t that happy when Andre herself doesn’t always agrees with its decisions neither and damages her as punishment. It is only a matter of time before something has to be done about it.
A lot of early British SF was grounded in the real world. One only has to look at John Wyndham’s books to realise that. The dividing line here is a little more obvious. John Elliott was an acknowledged novel writer. Fred Hoyle an astronomer and physicist who could provide the way the establishment works with scientists. The combination ended up making a human story with a strong SF element.
Over half a century later, ‘A For Andromeda’ is still a riveting read because of these elements and if you’re an SF fan who hasn’t read the book, should be picking up this re-release. I suspect if we ever do receive information from the stars such as this, then certain elements of this story will happen as here even today. It is still a guideline into being careful with goods that we don’t fully understand whose source they come from. Don’t miss it.
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