Written by: Michael Crichton, 1969
Instrument of the Apocalypse: Deadly microbes from outer space. Really!
Summary: Humanity gets off relatively lightly in the novel that made Michael Crichton a household name — casualties are largely limited to a single town. However, the entire human race is very much endangered when a meteorite bearing a deadly pathogen crashes into a military satellite, which eventually sickens nearly everyone in its path (except the few who are somehow immune). Fortunately — after assorted hijinx involving top-secret military containment facilities and nuclear bombs and whatnot — the organism mutates into a nonlethal form, and humanity breathes a sigh of relief. Notable for the extent to which Crichton blinds you with science (as a doctor, Crichton is comfortable throwing around technobabble about blood pH, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and the like; as a writer, he’s gifted enough to keep things moving to the point where you really don’t care), The Andromeda Strain also introduced the Odd Man Hypothesis, which states that unmarried men are best equipped to make the best, most rational decisions in a crisis.
On Screen: A couple of times: The 1971 film version was nominated for a Hugo, a Golden Globe, and two Oscars, while a 2008 miniseries (tag line: “It’s a bad day to be human”) produced by Ridley Scott was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards, although it was somewhat more loosely based on the book than the original film was — instead of five white male protagonists, Scott et al. mixed things up in terms of gender, ethnicity, and sexual preference. Even Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim is in it!
If you set out to deliberately exterminate mankind, you couldn’t do better than Andromeda.