Last summer Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park immediately became one of my favorite science fiction novels. Eager for more, I decided to read another one of his highly praised works: Sphere. While it didn’t surpass Jurassic Park in my mind, it certainly came close.
The story and plot themselves are everything that I’ve come to love about Crichton’s writing: unique, unexpected, suspenseful, fast-paced, gripping, and a bit terrifying. My initial predictions regarding where the story would go were completely off the mark, and I was delighted by how many times I was genuinely surprised by unexpected plot twists. What begins as a mere possibility of alien contact quickly transforms into something more dark, sinister, and foreign. There is constant action and change, and I even when I wasn’t reading I could not stop thinking about what might happen next. When it comes to page-turners and plot twists, Michael Crichton is king!
As much as this story is driven by plot, it is also largely motivated by the behaviors of the characters. Each character undergoes an immense amount of development and growth, although not always for the better. These changes are as unexpected as the many plot twists that occur, and are all the more jarring because they betray the trust the reader has in the personalities and motivations of the characters. If you’ve never experienced the horrid feeling of your first impressions being yanked away as they are disproven time and time again, then get ready for a flood of frustrated sighs and surprised gasps. Each character has many more layers than you would ever expect or are aware of until it’s too late; at that point, all you can do is quickly accept their true personalities and keep going. By the end of Sphere, you won’t know who to trust and who to disregard anymore; in this way, the novel is a sort of psychological thriller as well.
To be honest, I could go on and on about each character in depth because they are all so fascinating; however, I’ll limit myself to discussing only Norm and Beth, my two favorites. Norm, the protagonist of the story, is a middle-aged psychologist who has the easy relatability of the “average” person that you so frequently find in books. Despite his apparent “normalcy” (a play on words with his name, wouldn’t you say?) he offers some keen insight into the minds and behaviors of his fellow team members down on the ocean floor. Though these observations are not always correct, Norm nevertheless provides the reader with some interesting explanations and ways of viewing the other characters. Beth, on the other hand, is a strong, independent female that I really admired throughout this story. She’s not afraid to stand up for herself, and she makes many remarks to her teammates about treating women with the same respect and attitude that they give fellow men. It was refreshing to read from such a feminist perspective, especially within the science fiction genre in which females are often underrepresented and underappreciated.
As always, my favorite aspect of Crichton’s work is the way he makes the science fiction elements sound almost believable. The science behind the mysteries of the sphere are incredibly detailed and meticulously explained, making it seem as though they are based on actual evidence. Perhaps there is a kernel of fact deep down in the details that rings true, which is why his theories are more convincing than I would expect science fiction to be. Whatever the case is, I love how easy Crichton makes it for the reader to lose him or herself in his theoretical musings, to pretend that the world is an even more scientifically advanced place for a few hundred pages. In Sphere, the scientific components primarily deal with ocean life at great depths, human psychology, and even some physics. It’s a strange combination, but it makes for a fascinating and utterly unique novel.
Overall, Michael Crichton thoroughly impressed me with yet another incredible science fiction story. Though a very different novel from Jurassic Park, Sphere still had that characteristic dramatic tension that makes for a suspenseful, gripping, and chilling reading experience. This book has further confirmed why Michael Crichton is a masterful science fiction writer!
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!! Especially if they are fans of Jurassic Park or science fiction in general.
What are your thoughts on Sphere? Do you like science fiction? Are there any other books by Michael Crichton that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!