It's really interesting to read this now that a) I'm older, and b) I've read some of Crichton's later works. The Andromeda Strain is an extremely tight, plot-focused thriller, with almost no concerns about character or human emotion. It was also an interesting choice on Crichton's part to write the novel in the form of an after-the-fact events report, as if what happens in the novel actually happened. This sort of hyper-realism is only added to by the intense focus on scientific detail. Instead of titillating us by waving around images of the super-fantastic and out of this world, he creates a fictional world so like our own that instead of thinking, wow, glad this could never happen, we find ourselves thinking, HOLY SHIT, THIS COULD BE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.
Even if this approach seems kind of obvious to us now forty years later, this was revelatory stuff back in 1969, for a sci-fi writer to mine our own world for its terrifying possibilities, rather than to look elsewhere. Of course, later in his career, Crichton would hone the ability of mixing the fantastical with the mundane to an art form. Man, that guy had a brain on him.
[First read July 1999]