Friday 21 July 2023


I'm on holiday and I have my kindle packed with books I've chosen in the past, yet the lure of the small English library proved too much and I borrowed a paperback. My kindle has a role when traveling, but I don't always to have to feel responsible for it when I go for a swim in the sea, river, lake or pool and a physical book is so much less likely to be taken or broken when I do. 

Anyway, the choice of books in the library doesn't offer books that I'd usually go for. Hence, my first attempt (as far as I can remember, that is) at a Michael Crichton. I felt pretty confident. I was a big fan of the films Coma and of Westworld, so I felt I would be in safe hands.

The closest I've got to this one before is probably the ripping Down Deep by Mike Croft, an exciting under-sea adventure with a strong message. 

Sphere starts off well. After the first fifty pages, I tried explaining to my daughter that even if the plot sounded bonkers it was well-written and gripping. I was hooked. Was I going to become a new Crichton convert? It very much looked that way. 

Basically, a psychologist (Norman Johnson) who had previously worked for the government on a paper relating to possible human reactions to meeting extra-terrestrial beings is called in to a situation by the US navy. There's been a discovery at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. There's an unidentified craft down there that appears to have been involved in space travel and has also been there for some three hundred years. 

In his paper, Johnson recommended a team of experts and the team has finally been assembled to go down and take a look at the craft. 

Turns out it's likely to be a time-travelling craft that set off from earth to explore a black hole. As things progress, the team discover that it has picked up something in its travels- the sphere of the title. It's likely to be an alien ship, though they have no idea how to open it or what might be inside. 

When the action starts, the pace slips a little. There's much more explanation of theories and scientific speculation, though it was still interesting and thought provoking at this point.

After the mathematician of the group enters the sphere, everything changes. The alien finds a way to communicate with the humans, but it's still unclear whether this entity is malevolent or benevolent. ,

Things begin to go horribly wrong, though this could be down to cultural differences between the different life forms. Variations of sea creatures appear in vast numbers. There are attacks. People die. It's a race against time and against the force that has been unleashed. Of course it is. 

I'm not sure when I started to disengage. About half way through is my guess. The theories become more unlikely. Events lose their interest. Another crisis is just about averted, but there's another looming. The stuff of many a sci-fi thriller movie. 

By the end, I just wanted to find out what the conclusion would be. And it turned out to be disappointing. 

On the back it says that this is Michael Crichton at the top of his form. I very much doubt it. 

Not for me. I much preferred Down Deep. Maybe I'm more of a Crichton movie kind of human. 

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