Tag Archives: Alien

Review: Sphere


by Michael Crichton

Reviewed by JMD Reid

Norman Johnson is a psychologist specialized in how stress affects group dynamics. He is often called out by the FAA to help survivors of plane crashes and their families deal with the aftermath. So when he’s escorted by the US Navy out to the South Pacific he assumes a plane has crashed into the ocean.

It turns out to be something far stranger.

Once upon a time, a younger Norman, desperate for grant money, wrote a report for the government about how to handle first contact with alien intelligence. He said abject terror would be the result when humans were confronted with the unknown. Now, he is about to put his hypothesis to the test. A thousand feet beneath the ocean, something has been found. A craft that has been down there for at least 300 years.

A team of scientists, recommended by Norman, and a group of navy personal are tasked with uncovering what is and, if anything is alive, how to communicate with it. Staying in cramped quarters, surrounded by the crushing depths of the sea where a small mistake could get them all killed, the pressures are incredible. Can Norman keep the group functional when the discover the Sphere lurking in the heart of the craft?

Crichton’s Sphere is an interesting take on the first contact with aliens story. It’s told from the psychologist point of view and it delves into many aspects of emotional reactions and Jungian’s theory of the shadow self. Personalities conflict and clash. The unknown lurks around them, affecting them all as they struggle to understand just what they have discovered.

And that’s before things start going weird. Cricton goes a great job setting up the mystery and how it affects the characters. The answers for the story are found if you read carefully. But that’s not what the story is truly about. It’s about how people handle stress and how they can rise to the occasion, or break beneath the strain. It’s about what people can do when they’re taken to their limits. The Sphere, the mystery of it, is merely the catalyst around which Crichton has penned this excellent character study.

One of my favorite Crichton novels, blending suspense, emotion, and wonder with a pervading miasma of dread hanging over everything.

On a side note, this is one of the worst book covers I have ever seen.

You can purchase Sphere from Amazon!

Favorite Screen Characters Blog Hop

Susan Kicklighter invited me to participate in the Favorite Screen Characters blog hop. It’s a simple, fun hop. Name your ten favorite TV or Movie characters, then nominate ten friends to do the same!

So here’s mine. I’ll have to admit, this wasn’t easy. Lots of great movies. Lot’s of great TV shows. I jotted down my favorites, attempted to rank them, and here we go:

  1. Londo Mollari, Babylon 5
    Londo’s character arc is one of the most complex you’ll ever see in a TV show. He starts out as a buffoon, rises to power, realizes the depth of his crimes, finds redemption, and ends as a tragic hero. His relationship with G’Kar is one of the most powerful you’ll ever see.
  2. Madmartigan, Willow
    Madmartigan is simply fun. Brash, wild, the classic mercenary with a heart of gold. I loved Willow as a child, and the movie still holds up. There are plenty of characters like Madmartigan, but there are none I’d rather watch more.
  3. Vic Mackey, The Shield
    A complex character in a complex cop drama. Watching Vic Mackey lead his Strike Team proves the old adage, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What starts out as a shortcut to get the bad guys off the streets ends up destroying the lives of Vic and his Strike Team. Vic is such a charismatic guy, you can almost forget what a bastard he is.
  4. Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings
    Lord of the Rings is the reason I write fantasy. Without Tokien’s work, I’m not sure I ever would have fallen in love with the genre as a boy. There are a lot of great characters, but Sam rises above the rest. Solid and practical, and loyal to a fault. He walks into a literal Hell with his friend, and when Frodo can’t keep trekking, Sam carries his friend up Mount Doom.  And while the Peter Jackson adaptation weakned Sam’s character slightly (the brutal character assassination on the steps of Cirith Ungol), Sean Astin captured the essence of Sam and brought him to life.
  5. John Locke, LOST
    I am a big LOST fan. Unlike many, I wasn’t incensed by the ending. There are a lot of great characters. I could have built the list with characters just from LOST, but my favorite is John Locke. At the beginning, he’s this engimatic, and even a little creepy, individual. And then episode four comes around. Walkabout is one of my favorite episodes of LOST, and the depth of passion John Locke possess is astounding.
  6. Buffy Summers, Buff the Vampire Slayer TV
    Buffy is my favorite Joss Whedon character. She smart, sexy, and strong, throwing one liners while fighting the big bad. There’s also a great deal of depth to the character. The show puts her through the crucible, and she bears every last emotional wound over the course of the series.
  7. Walter Bishop, Fringe
    Walter Bishop is an amazing character. He’s the quintessential mad scientist. In his past, he performed some pretty unethical experiments in his drive for knowledge. Now, he’s an old man suffering from mild dementia, fearfully retreating from the horrors he caused and forced to confront them over the course of the show.
  8. Valeria, Conan the Barbarian
    The first Conan movie (the Arnold one, not that terrible remake they did a few years back) is the best sword and sorcery. And it has one of the best, kick ass women in movie history. Valeria is so badass she comes back as a Valkyrie to save Conan’s rear a second time in the movie’s climax. She’s as capable a fighter as Conan, fighting at his side as an equal.
  9. John McClain, Die Hard
    Of course the hero of the best action film of all time made my list. John McClain gets beat up and still keeps going. He didn’t ask to be the hero. He just wanted to try and patch up his relationship with his wife. The everyman hero is a great character, and John McClain is one of the best examples of this archetype.
  10. Ellen Ripley, Aliens
    Ripley is an amazing character. She is tough. She survives one of the most terrifying horror movies. And in Aliens, she’s forced to confront it all over again. And she steps up. Her confrontation with the Alien Queen to rescue Newt, her surogate daughter, forever cements Ripley as the best female action heroines of movie history!

Well, that’s my top ten. It was hard to choose them all, but some runners up are: Ben Linus (LOST), Hurley (LOST), Dean Winchester (Supernatural), G’Kar (Babylon 5), Abed (Community), Dwight K. Schrute (The Office), Betelgeuse (Beetlejuice), Hermione Granger (Harry Potter), Snape (Harry Potter), and Claudette Wyms (The Shield).

Check out Susan’s post to read hers and others!

Now, I’m tagging these great people! I can’t wait to hear yours!

Jane Bled, janebled.wordpress.com

Q.S. Khan, qs-khan.com

Jess Alter, indieimprint.com

Tim Hemlin, timhemlin.com

Tamara Ferguson, sbpra.com/tamaraferguson

Mindy Ogg, mindyogg.com

B.B. Blaque, www.bbblaque.com

BSM Stoneking, www.bsmstoneking.com

Leslie Moon, moondustwriter.com

M.I. Jean, www.mijean.com