Length: 371 pages
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Psychologist Norman Johnson, mathematician Harry Adams, astrophysicist Ted Fielding and zoologist Beth Halpern form the team of scientists that accompany a small Navy group into one of the deepest parts of the South Pacific. Their mission is one that seems incredible – investigate the spaceship that sits at the bottom of the ocean, a spaceship that is at least three hundred years old. But Captain Harold Barnes, the project commander and USN officer in charge of the operation knows more than he’s telling.
And yet, when the team finds a seemingly alien spherical object with nothing but some indentations along one side of its smooth surface, even Captain Barnes doesn’t have the answer that they all want – what is the sphere and where did it come from? Faced with the sphere that cannot be opened, the project comes to a near standstill… until something begins communicating with the team through their computer screen. Cut off from the surface, the team is forced to face the only plausible explanation – the messages have something to do with the sphere.
Then the messages become hostile. Whoever or whatever is transmitting the messages is getting angrier… and more powerful. And as the messages grow angrier and more hostile, the dangers become more real. With no way out of the habitat that sits at the bottom of the Pacific ocean, the team of Navy officers and scientists are forced to fight against the growing terrors even as their lives are left at the mercy of the one who is communicating with them. But how do you fight for your sanity and your life against an unknown enemy who may know no mercy?
Let me begin my review by saying that I have read Sphere before – around a decade ago. The only thing I remembered about the book though, is that I couldn’t keep it down in spite of being severely jet lagged and in dire need of some shut eye. So when I picked Sphere up again, I was quite sure that my expectations would only lead to me being disappointed by the book.
Never have I been so happy to be wrong!
Sphere is one of those books that has pretty much everything you need to make it unputdownable. It’s got great action, cliff hanging chapter ends, suspense, mystery, emotion and a little bit of drama too. Crichton, in his usual style, weaves a tale that moves rapidly and interestingly. I’ve always liked his writing style and this book only served to reiterate that liking. I especially like the way he explains theories and the nitty griitties of science without boring the reader to tears. He writes his theories simply, in a manner that makes for interesting conversation or narration, rather than a science lesson – one of the reasons I enjoyed reading the book so much. It was informative and managed to teach me a lot without making me feel like the words were jumping over my head.
The story itself is really interesting. An alien spacecraft with an alien object and a group of scientists and navy personnel that is sent down to investigate it. The story plays out really well, with each chapter leaving you wanting more and catching you by surprise (even on the second time around). And it doesn’t take long for things to get incredibly terrifying!
Many readers feel that the book does not have an ending that can be called gratifying, that Crichton simply finished the book because he got bored of writing it. But I thought that the ending was fine. Maybe, it could have some added explanation that would have gone on for a few pages more. But I don’t think that that would have really made it better. I think the ending was the way it was because that was the best way to end it. It wasn’t meant to tell you something specific, it was simply meant to lead you towards a particular direction where you walk on. And for me, that’s what it did.
That bring me back to my previous point. Sphere is terrifying and the ending leaves you scared. But this isn’t a fear of something physical or harmful. It is a fear that goes much further, much deeper. Without giving too much of the suspense away, the only way to describe it is the fear of possibility. Possibility exists positively and negatively; and unfortunately for us, we don’t realize the extent of the negative possibilities that lay dormant all around us. We don’t know where they can come from and what they may do… and that, in my opinion, is the most terrifying thing there is.
In Sphere, Crichton has taken an amazing look into the human psyche, something that he’s shown through the brilliant character building of each of his story’s characters. Using a group of brilliant minds that are forced to stay together in a cramped environment as the carriers of his story, Crichton shows us the strengths and weaknesses that every human being has. He depicts just how strong and weak the primal part of every human being is and often, how unpredictable and horrible it can be. This is something that Crichton shows in almost every book of his, but nothing that he has shown comes close to the depth that Sphere reaches.
All in all, a fast paced, suspense filled, amazing read that garners a 4.5 out of 5 even with its ending that is often described as dissatisfying. I walked away from this book knowing that it will remain a favorite of mine and I would recommend it to all Crichton fans and those who love a quick moving, page turning psychological suspense novels or science fiction.