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Study Guide: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton - BookNotes

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THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN: PLOT SUMMARY / LITERARY ANALYSIS

CHAPTER 6

Summary

The next morning, Burton and Stone take off from Vandenburg air force base in Southern California and head east toward Piedmont. As they fly, the two scientists discuss the bacteria’s incredibly rapid time course of death, the probability that it was airborne in nature, and the possibility of it spreading to the closest major cities: Las Vegas, San Bernadino, or Phoenix. As they circle the town, the scientists notice the vultures are now feeding on the on the town’s dead. In order to prevent the vultures from spreading the microbes, the helicopter drops several canisters of chlorazine to poison the birds. Once the gas has dissipated, the helicopter lowers Burton and Stone (who are now dressed in clear, plastic, inflatable suits) onto the ground. As the pilot flies away, Burton and Stone slowly walk down Main Street towards the center of town.


Notes

We start to see the harsh measures the army will take to try and quarantine this strain of bacteria. Not only are the vultures gassed, the highway patrol has also cordoned off the roads, and if anything happens to Stone and Burton the pilot that flew them into Piedmont will also been incinerated along with his helicopter.

<Comment> Why aren't the vultures dead as well? How are they not affected?


CHAPTER 7

Summary

As they walk around, Burton and Stone try to guess why the bodies are all outside in the open. Since the disease arrived at night in the winter, it should follow that everyone would be in bed, or at least indoors. They are also intrigued by the peaceful looks on the faces of the dead, hypothesizing that they all died of an instant asphyxiation, which would be relatively painless. Later, the two scientists come upon the van, and find Shawn and Crane’s bodies inside. Upon examination, they noticed that Shawn has a cut on his forehead from hitting the steering wheel, yet there’s no blood anywhere. In fact, none of the corpses have lost any blood.

After gassing up the van, Burton and Stone turn on the tracking equipment and begin honing in on the signal from the satellite, which they eventually find at the home of the town’s doctor. As they enter the home, they find the doctor dead in his office with the "Scoop" satellite still sitting on his desk. He had apparently opened it using a chisel and a pair of pliers. When Burton performs a crude autopsy on the doctor, a crumbly black-red powder falls out of the veins. The doctor’s entire vascular system had clotted solid.

Throughout the rest of the town, Burton and Stone find most people dead in various states of relaxation, but others have committed suicide. One old lady hung herself after writing a note stating this disease marks the end of the world, while a WWI veteran recorded a tape in which he blame the Germans for sending the bacteria, then dressed up in his uniform and put a gun to his head. Just as Burton and Stone finish listening to the tape they hear the sound of a baby crying. As they run into the house they notice the parents dead in the living room, but the newborn baby is crying upstairs in the crib. Although the baby is obviously hungry, Stone suggest they not feed it until they can get to a controlled environment. They need to find out how this baby managed to survive before they alter its environment in any way.

Burton and Stone drive back to Main Street and wait for the helicopter to lower the ladder. Just as they are ready to climb up they notice the white-robed man standing behind them. The man, who identifies himself as Peter Jackson, accuses Burton and Stone of sending this plague to the town. In their plastic suits, the two scientists look like aliens to him. He walks towards them saying that he’s feeling sick, then stops and vomits blood on to the street. Stone and Burton hoist the man into the helicopter before climbing in themselves. As the group flies back to the base, Stone radios Mancek and requests a 7-12 procedure.

Notes

This chapter gives the reader more information about the bacteria but ultimately provides more questions than answers. Why are so many people outside on a cold night? Why did others commit suicide? How did the old man and the baby manage to survive? How could five liters of blood solidify almost instantaneously? What is a 7-12 procedure?

In addition, Peter Jackson initially blames the two scientists for the tragedy that has befallen the town. This contributes to a very subtle anti-military theme that pervades the book.


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