Friday, January 28, 2011

Wondering about: The Andromeda Strain

As I wrote in my Nov. 29 post, I decided to read The Andromeda Strain again after reading The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. There are two questions concerning Michael Crichton’s 1969 novel that intrigue me.

1. Did the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 inspire The Andromeda Strain?

In his autobiography Travels, Crichton mentioned that his grandfather, a soldier, had died of influenza during the outbreak (p.193). I never gave it much thought until I read The Great Influenza and discovered how horrific the pandemic was. I remember reading a review of the book that compared the story of influenza to “something out of The Andromeda Strain”.

When I read The Andromeda Strain again recently, I noticed several connections to the story of the influenza pandemic. I’ll explore those later in another post. But for starters, Barry devoted a large portion of his book to the efforts of the scientists who researched the disease, trying to develop a vaccine or cure. Their efforts reminded me of the scientists in The Andromeda Strain.

Michael Crichton surely heard the story of his grandfather’s death from influenza. I wonder if it inspired him to go into medicine. That’s a question I may never be able to answer, but I can examine the connections between influenza and Andromeda.

2. The dedication for The Andromeda Strain reads: “For A.C.D., M.D. who first proposed the problem”. What is the meaning of that statement?

First of all, who is “A.C.D., M.D.”? My friend Jiet suggested that the initials probably stand for “Arthur Conan Doyle”, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was a physician, and Crichton said that he had “strongly identified with Conan Doyle” (Travels, p. 190). I think that the assumption that the initials refer Arthur Conan Doyle is a safe one (which doesn’t mean it’s correct, of course).

Assuming the dedication is to Arthur Conan Doyle, then what do we make of the phrase “who first proposed the problem”? What is “the problem”? And when and where did Conan Doyle propose it? I just finished reading Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and there is nothing relevant in the novel. (Unless I missed it, always a possibility).

I have some research to do.

Does anyone have any thoughts?


Brent said...

Thanks for keeping up this terrific blog. I am a huge fan of MC and you always find the most interesting things. -Brent CA USA

Brent said...

In the back of the Book "First words" (page 234)it references an article MC wrote for the New York Times in 1959. I found out that you can buy it for $4. I plan to get it and I wanted to let everyone know it is available. It is titled: "Climbing up a Cinder cone: A visit to Sunset crater makes a novel side trip in Arizona" New York Times 17 May 1959. I'll bet you already know about this, but many fans probably don't. Here is a link to the article:

Marla Warren said...

Thank you so much Brent! And thank you for the link for Michael Crichton's first published article. More about that soon!