On June 29th, 2017 I received an email from my friend author Ernest Cline (Ready Player One) telling me the estate of Michael Crichton was looking for a writer to continue his legacy … and that he’d mentioned my name. His widow Sherri Crichton wanted to have a chat.
Reading those words was the start of an incredibly thrilling two years.
My first meeting was with Sherri Crichton’s producing partner, Laurent Bouzereau in Los Angeles in August. I was on the third week of a book tour for my novel The Clockwork Dynasty, exhausted and nervous, and we met thirty minutes before I was supposed to speak at Book Soup. All of that fatigue disappeared when we started chatting about Crichton. At one point, Laurent asked me to name my favourite moment of all the books I had read. I remember grinning, trying to narrow it down to just one. (I went with the moment in Sphere when the scientists uncover the American flag on the sunken alien space ship — whaaaaat!)
When the meeting was over, it dawned on me that our fun conversation had really been a kind of test. This job could only go to someone who had read and loved Crichton’s work. And it looked like I had passed.
Sherri, Laurent and I had an initial call where they told me they were interested in my ideas for a potential sequel to The Andromeda Strain. In October 2017, I meet with Sherri and Laurent to pitch my ideas. Again, it was a nerve-racking experience but it was obvious that the sequel to The Andromeda Strain was the most exciting to all of us. I had already spent weeks thinking and dreaming about a story. The rough pitch I laid down in the room that day, combined with ideas that Sherri and Laurent had about where they saw the story should go, ultimately became the backbone for The Andromeda Evolution.
It was unbelievable to really be on this project, but now I had to write a killer novel! Not only that, but the project had to be kept top secret. For months and months, I wrote and researched in total secrecy (my wife was allowed to know — a stipulation that was literally in the contract). I began reaching out to NASA roboticists and fighter pilots and all manner of scientists — never telling them why I was asking my questions or what I was working on. After completing the first hundred pages, I shared the manuscript with Sherri Crichton and HarperCollins in August of 2018. Then I held my breath …
The Andromeda Evolution was born out of love for The Andromeda Strain and with the goal of continuing the legacy of Michael Crichton. While I worked on The Andromeda Evolution, I kept his name at the top of my title page above my own. Every morning when I opened up the manuscript, the sight of our names together felt surreal. Having spent so much time reading his work, I found that Crichton’s name alone carried a huge symbolic weight.
It wasn’t until I was halfway through writing the novel that Michael Crichton became more than just a name to me. I travelled to NASA Johnson Space Center on a research visit and brought along two of my children, who were 6 and 9 at the time. Sherri Crichton joined us with her son, who turned 10 on the day we met. I remember seeing our children playing together among giant robot arms, a mock-up of the International Space Station, and all manner of experimental vehicles and robots and space suits. Sherri’s son was wearing a Jurassic Park ball cap, and the whole experience felt like the set-up for a new Crichton novel. Only then did it hit me full force that adding chapters to Crichton’s stories had come with a huge responsibility — not only to his millions of fans, but also to his family.
An author lives on through their work. While writing The Andromeda Evolution I did my best to crack open a door that had been closed — to provide an experience that would be entertaining and thrilling, but most of all a chance for everyone who loved Michael Crichton to peek through that open door and hopefully catch one more glimpse of him.
I’m honoured to have been a part of it, and I can’t wait to share this new adventure with Crichton fans new and old!
We can’t wait to share The Andromeda Evolution either — which is why it’s our Book of the Month for December, meaning you get 30 per cent off by using the code BCBT19 at Booktopia. Think Christmas presents, holiday reading, or just a little treat for yourself.
Speaking of which, jump into the Sunday Book Club Facebook group and share your top tips for seasonal page-turners. And while you’re there, tell us the best (and worst) sequels you’ve ever read.