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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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I was recently surprised to find this novel on one of my shelves; I saw the movie adaptation of the novel recently but did not remember owning the actual book. The movie was full of promise but ultimately disappointing, so I was pretty curious to see how good a read the actual novel was. Sphere is my first Michael Crichton novel, and I have to say I was quite impressed with Crichton's prowess. There are some logical flaws and inconsistencies in the plot, but Crichton is an incredibly gifted storyteller; I eagerly breezed through this novel in short order. While it is heavy on dialogue, the story touches on a number of aspects of the human personality while mixing in some profound if problematic science fiction in the process. This is a fast-paced thriller that definitely registers impressively on the suspense meter, particularly during the climactic late chapters. While the ending is something of a letdown, the story leading up to it is gripping and fascinating, and important clues and plot points are presented with much more subtlety and effectiveness than what you will find in the movie adaptation.
The novel is built around an incredible discovery; in the middle of the South Pacific, lying all but buried on the bottom of the ocean, rests a spacecraft of unknown origin. Psychologist Norman Johnson, the author of a secret government paper on Recommendations for the Human Contact Team to Interact with Unknown Life Forms (a less than serious paper he wrote primarily for the money) is called to the site, where he is informed that he will be part of a team of scientists sent to study the mysterious craft. Alongside him are an irascible Navy project commander, a brilliant, young astrophysicist/planetary geologist, a complicated female zoologist/biochemist, and a noted mathematician/logician. This unlikely team of deep ocean explorers soon find themselves in an artificial habitat resting alongside the location of the mysterious ship. Their exploration of the site yields more questions than answers, as the ship turns out to be an American spaceship from the future. The truly enigmatic discovery onboard, though, is a giant sphere of unknown composition. As the story unfolds, the team of explorers finds themselves effectively stranded on the ocean floor for a period of some days, and strange and frightening things begin to happen after one scientist somehow enters the sphere. The scientists find themselves in communication with a supposedly alien entity who calls himself Jerry; whoever and whatever Jerry is, he seems to have the power to manifest remarkable physical creations and changes in reality. The habitat and the team inside it soon comes under attack by such dangerous creatures as giant squid and killer jellyfish, but the problems eventually internalize themselves inside the group dynamic, a group that is shrinking in size as time goes by. The mysterious Sphere imparts an amazing power to those who enter it, a power that such individuals may not even be consciously aware of wielding. Ultimately, the last remnants of the research team begin pointing fingers at one another and take steps to insure their own individual survival in the face of an unquantifiable threat, making this novel a gripping psychological thriller based in a fascinating science fiction environment.
Once the team arrives in the underwater habitat, nonstop action ensues. One emergency after another challenges the crew, and the group dynamic of the team ebbs and flows along with each jarring crisis. Along the way, we see ever more clearly into the minds and ways of thinking of our main characters, and a significant amount of ideas are expressed concerning the human condition. Crichton provides for no obligatory rest areas along the way, as he takes the reader for an incredible ride that had me turning pages hand over fist in anticipation of what was to come. Some of the science is questionable, but Crichton surely makes it all sound more than plausible. The only real problem with the novel is a logical breakdown of sorts in the concluding chapters. Still, the desperate attempts of the remaining explorers to survive, when they cannot even trust one another, make for a riveting reading experience. Sphere is by no means a perfect novel, but I found it captivating and basically addictive up until the somewhat disappointing ending. The movie adaptation takes significant liberties with the original story, so I would urge you not to let the movie's failings prevent you from immersing yourself in this eminently readable novel.
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on 8 March 2000
Not only does Crichton give a fabulous story but also incorporates into it the profound ideas and lessons of psychology and space. The fact mixed with the fictional story makes it all very realistic. the story is given from the point of view of a normal man, who has no idea what is going on. we only realise something in the story when he does. The plot twists and turns and when you finally think you have cracked it, it twists again. A stunning novel which I could not put down until I finished the last page. I havent yet seen the film, perhaps this is why I found the book so good, because my views had not been spoilt by the film. If you are into sci-fi, the mind, and the unknown, then PLEASE read this book. I cant give it enough praise.
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on 20 November 2000
Great stuff! This book had me second-guessing all the characters. The prefect balance of Science and fiction,I'm quickly becoming a Michael Crichton fan!
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on 21 February 2004
You've got to give it to Michael Crichton: he writes one heck of a page-turner. Open one of his books with the idea that you'll just read a chapter or two before bedtime and you'll suddenly be bleary-eyed at three in the morning. And although this particular title is somewhat less well known than such Crichton novels as THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN and JURASSIC PARK, it still packs a bestseller wallop.
The premise is classic Crichton. In his younger days, psychologist Norman Johnson was approached by the United States government to write a report on the psychological impact of an encounter with extra-terrestrials--and now, on the basis of his rather flippant recommendations, he finds himself en route to a possible UFO crash sight on the floor of the Pacific ocean. Once established with his colleges in an underwater habitat, the government team encounters a mysterious space craft that contains a still-more mysterious sphere, and those who come into contact with it undergo an unexpected change.
The writing is crisp and clean, the hard science is handled quite skillfully, and Crichton plays out his story at a breathless pace: yes, a page-turner if ever there was one. Still, it is worth noting that SPHERE displays Crichton's weaknesses as clearly as it does his strengths. Strictly speaking, Crichton hasn't had an original concept in some thirty years, and just as he rehashed his screenplay for WESTWORLD into the novel JURASSIC PARK, so does he rehash THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN into SPHERE. The novel also contains both the foundational sexism and ambiguous conclusion so typical of Crichton's work.
Ultimately, SPHERE is popcorn: we've all had it before and you can't make a truly satisfying meal of it. But it is tremendously enjoyable all the same, and where is SPHERE is concerned... well, you'll eat every kernal in the bowl.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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on 18 November 2001
As many other's I saw the film first and thought it was great, so when I saw the book in my local book store I thought I'd buy it, afterall I had enjoyed the film and some of Crichton's other book's. The book was incredible I could not and did not want to put it down, it was easy to get into and the charecter's were easy to imagine. The adrenalin surge that I got when an unknown enemy repeatedly attacks the living quater's of the team sent down to investigate the presence of an unknown ship was incredible.
I would strongly urge people to forget the film and buy or borrow the book as it is much better. This book is so well written that almost anyone of any age can pick it up and soon be engrosed. An awesome book that will stay with you for a while.
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VINE VOICEon 24 October 2007
Sphere is a fine novel of suspense, intrigue, excitement...and psychology.

The main character of the book, Norman Johnson, is a psychologist, and so it is that Sphere changes from being a science fiction novel to a psychological thriller, particularly in its last quarter. This isn't the sort of genre I'd normally read, but I enjoyed this.

The story starts off building slowly, and after 80 pages or so it's flying. There is intrigue and mystery by the bundle as the mysteries of the underwater spaceship and its equally enigmatic sphere are first discovered and then unravelled. The nature of the sphere is never fully explained, and I liked this ambiguity. Certainly we do get answers to many questions as the book draws to a close, but it also leaves some questions - perhaps the "larger" questions - unresolved, being as they are beyond the scope of human understanding. You should find that the answers we are provided with are satisfactory, though.

The second half of the book contains much more excitement, as alien contact is made and the local sea life becomes hostile. But simultaneously Sphere becomes much more psychological at this point, too. The characters start to grate on each other and play games with each other, and it's a race to see which one will turn psychotic first. Will they destroy each other before the sphere does? It's all very intense. However, if you are like me, you will feel almost sad that the sci-fi elements of the story begin to be superseded by the psychological aspects. This book draws a fine line between genre fiction and a simple thriller.

The book has a nice ending which made me smile, and the story, such as it is, is wrapped up logically and clinically. I don't really have any major complaints about it. Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely.

I would say that Sphere is just as good as Jurassic Park, but in a different way. While JP offers breakneck excitement and exhilaration, Sphere offers more subtle thrills and intrigues, and is probably on a slightly deeper level. Both have their merits and attractions. All I'll say is: if you want a good read of any sort, read Sphere.
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on 18 August 2000
One heck of a book, it kept me gripped from start to finish. Full of original thoughts and ideas, it presents a provokative, thrilling, genuinely scary search into not only the subconsiouces of the characters, but into that of the reader. Crichton has achieved a masterpiece.
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on 24 January 2001
This is quite simply one of the most gripping and intense books I have ever read. I started reading Michael Crichton books a few years ago when I thought I might as well give "Jurassic Park" a try. He has fast become my favourite author, and Sphere, with its tense storyline and shrewd attention to detail, is without doubt one of his finest.
An absolute must for any Michael Crichton fan, and if you've never read one of his books before, a great way to get started (you won't be disappointed!!!)
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on 3 February 2014
Very much in the vein of "The Andromeda Strain", this book is quite intriguing and challenges the reader to work out the mystery of the book itself. "Sphere" has a wry sense of humour and features a fairly unlikeable bunch of bickering characters who are (if you'll forgive the pun) very much out of their depth when it comes to dealing with.. well, *whatever* it is that they find at the bottom of the ocean.
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on 28 November 2014
Well written but I felt it lost its way and I found myself skim reading it towards the end. This might be because sci-fi does become dated, and you have to approach it with the context of the time in which it was written.
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