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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sphere

Sphere by Michael Crichton
384 p Ballantine Books

Michael Crichton was by no means an excellent composer of prose. His characters were for the most part, paper thin. Despite this, Crichton was a master storyteller and could make complex ideas easily understandable. Almost every book he wrote was a page turner, and Sphere is considered by many his best. Personally, I read the majority of his books in junior high, loved them at the time, and never revisited them. Most of the fiction I wrote in junior high was in the style of Crichton. He was my favorite author. Throughout my high school, college, post-college wandering, and married with child life, I have focused more on "serious" literature. Hemingway took Crichton's place a decade ago and has never been dethroned. After the birth of my son, I have been more reflective on my early years, and decided to pull out some of my old favorites. Sphere was the first. Sphere uses the description on its back cover to twist expectations and continues to twist the reader's conception's of what it is actually about until the final pages. This is easily one of the least straightforward and ambiguous of Crichton's plots. More is left to the imagination of the reader, and maybe that is why it captured mine. The protagonist, Norman, is also one of Crichton's most memorable. He is remarkable because he is so unremarkable, a slightly overweight middle-aged man of average ability and only slightly above-average intelligence. This makes him more endearing, a solid center to the maelstrom swirling around him. Also interesting that as a seventh-grader I found it just as easy to put myself in Norman's shoes as I did a few days ago. I did not notice how finely tuned Crichton's populist sensibilities were until now. Still, in Crichton plot is king, and this is about as exciting a concoction of events as anyone could want. I did find myself noticing two disturbing things about myself while reading Sphere the second time: 1. My imagination is not as active as it was during the seventh grade. There are so many reasons this might be so, so I will not even speculate here. 2. I could read so much faster in the seventh grade. This book flew by in a quick night back then, but not this time. Maybe this is because I did not dissect every sentence then as I do now, but I definitely think current self would beat seventh grade self in a fight.

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