Michael Crichton is well-known for covering many genres: medical thrillers, science fiction, historical plots, just to name a few. In Crichton’s novel Sphere, written over thirty years ago in 1987, is science fiction; the author uses his Harvard medical degree and knowledge of biology to blend military and biology into his plot.
===> What you are about to read IS NOT a Book Review. It is a Summary. This is a common mistake of students. In a Book Review, you add commentary, editorial, opinion. Was the setting effective? Did the novel successfully develop the theme? <===
This story revolves around the psychologist Norman Johnson, who in his past, wrote a document for the government describing what would happen if aliens visited Earth. He was asked to state information such as what the aliens might look like and how humans would go about communicating with the aliens. Johnson is called one day by the Navy to visit a classified spot in the Pacific Ocean, one that the military and government are very interested in.
The Navy has found a mysterious spacecraft thousands of feet under the surface of the ocean which is covered in over 30 feet of debris and sediment. The military doesn’t know how it got there and calls on Johnson and several others to examine the spacecraft.
Before the crew of civilian investigators arrive to study the spacecraft, the Navy set up a habitat deep in the ocean to allow people to stay below the surface for extended periods of time. The group decides to enter the spacecraft, which they do immediately without any difficulty. What they find , however, is beyond their comprehension; the spacecraft appears to be made by humans from the future. In addition, they find a large metallic sphere inside the spacecraft with has tribal graphics and a door that cannot be opened by conventional means.
Harry eventually returns to the vessel and enters the sphere on his own. He returns to the habitat with a massive headache and need for sleep, not remembering what occurred in the sphere. While he is conscious, random coded messages start to appear in the habitat’s digital monitors which are translated by the other members. An entity named “Jerry” communicates with the civilian team and claims to be almighty. Jerry quickly proves to be unable to communicate clearly and to have a temper.
Not only does Jerry have a temper, but he has the ability to create organisms of enormous size which constantly attack the habitat. A large squid attacks the Navy’s habitat three times, each time killing one of the team’s members, finally damaging the structure to the point where it is deadly for the humans to remain there. Each time the squid attacks the habitat, a different sector of the habitat floods, catches on fire, or loses the ability to maintain the proper oxygen level.
Knowing that the humans are in great danger of being killed if they cannot stop the dangerous squid, Norman uses his psychology training to figure out what is happening in and around the spacecraft. Eventually he figures out that Harry has gained the ability to allow his subconscious thought to be manifested into reality after entering the sphere. Norman’s fear and thinking of squid attacking the habitat actually created a squid which attacked the habitat. It was also Harry thinking about shrimp and other sea life that caused them to appear, glowing, outside the habitat at various times in the book. Norman also figures out that the danger is present only when Harry is conscious. Harry can only think about the squid attacking while he is awake and alert.
Norman and Beth, the only two humans alive at this point, decide that they must sedate Harry so he can not think any more dangerous thoughts. They rummage through an on-board first aid kit and find various drugs which can be used in emergency situations to put a human to sleep for surgery. Norman and Beth give Harry enough drugs to keep him asleep for nearly eight hours so they can figure out how to get back to the surface and leave the danger behind. At this point, Norman realizes that Beth seems distant and has a strange look in her eyes. Norman can see that Beth has also entered the sphere, making her just as dangerous as Harry.
Beth tells Norman that she is innocent and that Norman is the problem. Beth plants explosives all around the habitat while thinking irrationally and tells Norman that she is doing it as a safety precaution. However, Norman knows better and must stop her. He enters the sphere and gains the power to manifest his thoughts into reality. He begins arguing with Beth and they engage in a power struggle with their newly acquired powers. Beth has an advantage over Norman, but as they are struggling, Harry re-enters the picture after awaking from sedation, and knocks out Beth so she cannot hurt anyone.
At this point, knowing that Beth and Harry are still dangerous and time is running short before the spacecraft and habitat explode due to Beth’s explosives, Norman enters the escape submarine and quickly ascends toward the ocean’s surface. He figured that Harry and Beth were lost causes and he should save himself while he can. On his way up, Beth communicates with Norman, reminding him that he is not a bad person and wouldn’t abandon two people he really cares about. With a sudden feeling of guilt, Norman stops his ascent and returns to the ocean floor. He races to get Harry and Beth onto the small submarine and turns the submarine’s ascent rate on high.
While ascending to the surface, the habitat, spacecraft, and sphere all explode with massive force, causing the submarine to stumble and accelerate more quickly towards the surface. The three people eventually reach the surface and look at all of the military ships around them before falling into unconsciousness. They later awaken knowing that the Navy will soon question them extensively about the spacecraft and sphere. Knowing that the spacecraft has enormous power within it and that whatever the three people tell the Navy could accelerate their research to build the dangerous vessel, they decided to use their powers to forget their powers. Norman, Beth, and Harry all think about a believable story to tell the Navy and government and think about not having the powers anymore. They successfully forget their manifestation and convince the Navy to believe their false story.
Overall, Crichton’s book Sphere is an interesting read with good factual background. Crichton’s knowledge of biology and science and his imagination are all used well to write this book. The main idea behind the book that a ship from the future traveled through a black hole into the past and became stuck at the bottom of the ocean is interesting and unique. Add mind-control, oversized sea-life, military, and futuristic technology, and you have a best-selling, one-of-a-kind novel. This book is rated 4.5 out of 5.
Daniel Breedlove is the owner and manager of Corner Office Books
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Miss McCulla is a retired English teacher of 32 years. She has Mastery of the grammar and mechanics of English, and has taught expository writing, fictional writing, and rhetorical skills to hundreds of students and aspiring writers throughout her career. She has written/edited/self-published five books and currently writes for and edits a writing blog called The Underground Tutor where she gathers essays, articles, entries, papers, manuals, profiles, criticisms, and analyses of literature, just like those asked of students and writers in the university and publishing houses.
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