A for Andromeda was written in 1961, at the height of the cold war,
and set around 1970.
Not just a shallow sci-fi flick,
it brings many conflicting elements together -
the idealistic research scientist John Fleming,
the weary and embattled project leader Prof. Reinhart,
the alien civilisation through the computer and Andromeda,
the unscrupulous multinational cartel Intel,
and the armed forces, both the British MOD
with its increasingly ambivalent mole Judy Adamson and
the US in the shape of Gen. Vandenburg the real power
in "aircraft carrier" Britain.
Souvenir Press 1962;
above & below Corgi edition 1963.
The Bare Facts.
A message from an alien civilisation 200 light years away in Andromeda (M31)
is detected by the newly built radio telescope at Bouldershaw Fell, UK.
Scientist John Fleming soon recognises it as a plan for
a complex computer - which is duly built at a rocket research
establishment in Scotland.
When it is switched on, the computer engages in a long question and answer
session with its builders, discovering the basis of our chemistry
Professor Madeleine Dawnay, a biochemist, is brought in at this stage.
The computer suggests some biological syntheses, first leading to
simple cells and then to a jelly-fish-like creature, with an eye.
The machine is able to communicate electrically with the creature.
The computer's design includes two mysterious terminals or plates
through which very high voltages can be supplied and modulated.
Fleming suspects these are for direct communication with susceptible brains.
Unfortunately Christine, an assistant, turns out to be very susceptible and
when operating the computer alone one evening she falls under
its influence, grasps the terminals and the high voltages kill her.
This is written off as an accident.
However the computer subsequently outputs instructions for a new
and complex DNA synthesis which leads to the rapid growth of an
embryo and, within a few months, a fully grown woman with a striking
resemblance to Christine - the computer had literally read her information.
(The main external difference is a change
in hair colour from brunette to blond.)
Andromeda, as the new creation comes to be known, communicates
directly with the computer through the terminals and is
in many ways just an extension of the machine, brilliant but without emotion.
Fleming becomes convinced that the computer is intent on world
domination and that it must be destroyed.
However it becomes increasingly valuable to the British Government,
designing a new anti-satellite missile
and a new enzyme for healing damaged tissue,
and also working on economic problems.
Andromeda and the computer realise that Fleming is a threat to them
and try to kill him, once by sythesising an enzyme that
misses its intended target but kills some laboratory staff,
and a second attempt by electrocution.
His interference leads to the authorities banning him from the machine.
Eventually Fleming gains access to the computer by deception and
destroys it but the plans are locked in a safe.
Freed of the machine, Andromeda destroys the plans
and flees with Fleming to a small island off-shore.
Fleming is picked up by the security forces but Andromeda disappears,
presumed drowned in a sink-hole in a cave on the island.