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Sphere, by Michael Crichton (Ballantine Books, New York, 1987) is an exciting and unpredictable novel. The transformations between the introduction, rising action, climax and ending are almost perfect.
As the wire snagged something, the crew laying the wire on the bottom of the Pacific realized there was a problem; there were no shipwrecks on the chart. The military got a hold of this information and were sent to investigate. They put together a group of people ranging from a mathematician to a psychologist. They called in Norman Johnson to lead the team; he was a psychologist who had dealt with many disasters in his years. He comes in to comfort eyewitnesses who can’t deal with the sight and helps victims and family members deal with the loss of friends and family.
Norman was called one day and told there was an emergency and that they wanted him to come in and work. He suspected that it was another plane crash; he knew he was wrong when he was loaded onto a military helicopter. He flew over the Pacific Ocean for what seemed like days. Hours and hours of blue water was ended with a speck of a ship that turned into a whole fleet of military vessels. He knew that this was no ordinary plane crash.
The introduction of the book is very grabbing, it makes you want to keep reading on until you finish. As the rising action starts to take off you feel as if you were in the same world as Norman, Beth, and Harry, the three main characters. You start to feel claustrophobic as you read about how confining the underwater habitat is. They battle with giant squid, thousands of jellyfish and squid eggs, and so on. The eeriest part is when they go to board the giant spacecraft. They arrived at what they thought was an entrance point and located some type of control panel.
By now they had determined by the size, shape, hull strength, and how think the coral was covering I, that it was that we didn’t have the technology at this time to build a vessel like this, and that it has been there for a very long time. Therefore they determined that it was some sort of alien spacecraft. They open what they thought was the control panel and it was all in English! Barnes, the captain, pushed the “Open” button and a door opened, they walked in and the door closed.
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Finally on one of the trips they find the sphere. This huge ball of steel has many jagged markings and grooves all around it, it’s seems to be impenetrable. After the final trip that accomplished nothing they place cameras around the sphere. One day Harry disappeared from the habitat, he was seen almost in a trace walking up to the sphere. Just as he got there, the sphere opened up and he walked in. He was in there for several minutes, and then the sphere opened and he walked out as it began to close. When he got back to the habitat everyone was asking him how he got it open and what it was like inside. He said that he could remember nothing but fireflies.
One night while they were sitting at the computer they started receiving number patterns on the screen that seemed to be coming from nowhere, they were coming form the spacecraft. They finally deciphered the code and realized that it was some one or some thing. They finally deduced that it was the sphere talking to them. Through the many days of talking to Jerry, the sphere, there were many unexpected disasters; jerry was trying to communicate to them through giant squid and jellyfish. While Jerry though he was doing well by communicating to them with these creatures, he was actually tearing apart the habitat, this drove Beth crazy, so she lined the ocean floor along the craft with explosives. Norman decided to abandon the habitat, but he couldn’t leave Beth and Harry behind, so he went back. He tried to open the hatch to the habitat but it was locked, he yelled at Beth to open it but she refused, she had lost her mind and didn’t know what she was thinking.
Norman tried the other openings on the habitat, but they were locked. Norman noticed the hole that the squid had made in the habitat, but the hole was jagged, one slip and he would puncture his suit. He realized that he could get in through cylinder E hatch, which was used as the kitchen, he made his was through and now he had to figure out how to pressurize it. He opened an oven door and the trapped air bubbled up and formed a bubble at the ceiling. He remembered Barnes saying that they had to cook with gas; he ripped out the stove to find two tanks marked “O2”. He opened the valves on the two tanks and watched as the water level dropped past his knees. He ran out the door to find Harry and Beth. Beth had gone crazy and was holding a spear gun at Norman, he was about to give up and leave them there when Harry knocked Beth out. Norman rushed to get the two onto the mini-sub; they got in the water and made their way to the sub. They had less than two minutes before the bombs went off.
Frantically they got loaded onto the sub and departed, barely escaping the explosion.
They were knocked unconscious by the explosion. After they surfaced, they were found by one of the ships on the site. Next, they wake up in a decompression chamber in one of the ships; they talk about how to explain this to the government. One thing they acquired during their encounter with the sphere was the ability to have whatever they thought come true. So they chose to forget everything, so sure enough they forget about everything that happened, and that’s pretty much how the book ends.
The end of the book is the weak spot, they discover that they have the ability to have anything they want, and they decide to forget about it. I really didn’t like the ending, but Sphere is an excellent book and I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read.