Our story opens with Dr. Norman Johnson, a psychologist, who is traveling to the site of a plane crash. When Norman finally arrives at his destination, he finds out that there is no crash at all. Instead, it was a white lie that the US Navy told in order to get Norman to meet with them.
While he waits for the Navy to debrief him, he finds out that he wasn’t the only one that they called to help out with the “plane crash.” Norman looks about the room and recognizes the other scientist, all who are well-known in their field of study. Curious, the group makes small talk hypothesizing as to why they are all here.
The Navy debriefs the group and explains that there is something in the ocean that they would like help investigating. They don’t go into much detail. Basically, it all comes down to, “Are you in or are you out?”
“In a sense, he thought, all we consist of is memories. Our personalities are constructed from memories, our lives are organized around memories, our cultures are built upon the foundation of shared memories that we call history and science.”
Norman agrees to follow the Navy to the depths of the ocean. You soon find out that the reason they are all there is because the Navy stumbled upon a strange sphere. Not knowing what else to think, the Navy tells the group that they believe it to be something alien like or have supernatural powers. The team occupies an underwater hub while they try to figure out what this thing is. Some are ambitious and don’t want to wait and suddenly the sphere opens up for one of the team members.
But why them? What did they do to open it? And, how will they do it again?
These are the questions that you are left with. These are the questions that drive you to the final pages.
I am normally not a huge sci-fi reader but when it comes to Michael Crichton I am all in. He is by far one of my favorite writers. His books are so full of imagination that it takes you to another world in just one paragraph. The whole idea of an underwater hub seems something that could actually exist! Something for all the conspiracy theorist out there to ponder on.
Like Crichton’s other novels, they don’t feel like sci-fi but more of thriller type pieces. Sphere was the same for me, possibly because it takes place in the ocean. Crichton doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty details of how the machine (or being) works. I feel like sometimes sci-fi books get carried away with those sorts of details thinking that it will make things seem more futuristic or supernatural. To me, all I want to know is what it is in plain English so I can move forward with the story and not feel so lost.
I enjoyed the interaction between all the characters in Sphere. The team is tight quarters with one another and the dialogue shows emotions escalating. Crichton does an excellent job showing why people are getting into it with one another instead of telling it. He keeps you engaged leaving you wondering what is going to happen next.
The movie came out 11 years after the book did. I was too young to see it then and haven’t seen it yet. The book is always better than the movie, right? Still, it is always fun to see what Hollywood saw versus what you imagine when reading through a book.