Monday, August 29, 2016

‘A for Andromeda’, a book I shall remember forever.

Recent news of the discovery of an Earth like planet with the probability of water and life on it reminded me of ‘A for Andromeda’.  A for Andromeda  by  Fred Hoyle and John Elliot was my brother’s Non-detailed English Text Book during his Pre-Professional Course (PPC) at Manipal College of Dental Sciences, Manipal. I read the book and liked it. It is a science fiction story and based on a 1961 BBC TV show. The book being very good and a pictorial one, I looked into it time and again and reread portions of it. For these reasons this is one book which I remember very well.
The connection between the recent news of the discovery of an Earth like planet and this book is extraterrestrial life and extraterrestrial intelligence.
According to the recent news it is confirmed that an Earth like planet is discovered at a distance of 4.2 light years orbiting the star called Proxima Centauri which is the nearest star to our Sun. Scientists are of the opinion that water might exist on this planet and hence life in some form. I shall write more on this as clear details are available. But as of now I shall write about this memorable and my evergreen science fiction ‘A for Andromeda’.
In 1961, the BBC ran a seven-part TV show called ‘A for Andromeda’ about a SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) fictional success story. Then its novelization took place and the book was released in February 1962.  
The story in brief is as follows. A team of young scientists design and build a new Radio Telescope. This telescope picks up a pattern of signals from the Andromeda Galaxy.  When the signals are decoded by the young scientist John Fleming and his assistant Christine, it turns out to be instructions for the design of an advanced computer. Once the computer is built it delivers another set of guidelines for the creation of a living organism. Through this experiment a fast growing life form, a giant single eyed monster named Cyclops is created. Influenced by Cyclops and the computer, Fleming’s assistant, Christine is compelled to hold the two terminals of the computer and is killed by a massive electric shock.
Following Christine’s death, the computer outputs a new set of instructions, this time for the creation of a complete human embryo. Fleming becomes nervous with these developments, worried that whatever life-form they are creating may not have humanity’s best interests at heart. He also realizes that the two terminals positioned on either side of the computer have an ability to influence human brains to obey orders from the computer. Fleming is horrified with these developments and demands abandoning the project. The project is now under the control of the British Military so Fleming’s obstructions lead to his expulsion.
The embryo rapidly grows to maturity; everyone is stunned when it is revealed to be a clone of the deceased Christine. They name this creature as Andromeda. Andromeda quickly learns to communicate and is brought before the computer. The computer realizing its instructions have been carried out destroys Cyclops as it has been superseded by Andromeda.
The computer puts Andromeda to work and develops a program to enable Britain to intercept orbital missiles. Andromeda also creates an enzyme to heal injured cells almost instantly. Thus
Andromeda is used not only in the defence industry but in any other manner. The computer has an evil secret agenda and begins to harm or eliminate through Andromeda those who are critical of continuing this project. Andromeda tries to kill Fleming but fails. Fleming befriends her and teaches her human emotions. Then Andromeda confesses to Fleming that she is a slave of the computer and that the computer is working to take over humanity. Hearing this Fleming gains entry to the computer room where he takes an axe and destroys the computer and the machinery around it. Now free of the computer Andromeda listens to Fleming and is able to access the safe that contains the copies of the original message with the instructions for building the computer which she burns so that the machine cannot be rebuilt. With the base virtually destroyed, Fleming and Andromeda flee to one of the islands near the base. Pursued by soldiers, they hide in a series of caves on the island. However, Andromeda is apparently killed when she walks into a deep pool. The dejected Fleming is brought back by the soldiers but it serves no purpose.
The purpose of non-detailed study is to develop a taste for reading a wide variety of books in English and to develop love for books and this book does it exceedingly well.

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