I read The Andromeda Strain when I was around thirteen years old. I grabbed my dad's yellowed copy off his towering shelves of sci-fi and pretty much devoured it. It might be the book that sparked my lifelong fascination with apocalyptic fiction. For a couple of years I've been meaning to reread it with adult eyes; I'm sure now, in the wake of Crichton's sudden succumbing to cancer, I won't be the only one.
The summer I turned seventeen, I think, I read Sphere. I remember my reading of it more than I remember the story. I was stuck to it; I couldn't shake it off. I got yelled at by my boss at summer camp because I would read a few pages while my campers were changing into their bathing suits, or I'd duck into the bathroom for a few minutes too long. I don't mind that I don't recall many details of the story. I'm pleased enough to remember the feeling of being so completely lost in it. The books we read don't always need to inspire us or teach us lessons. Often just the pleasure of getting sucked into a good story is spectacular in itself.
I didn't like the others of Crichton's books I've read; they seemed to me to be fleshed out versions of screenplays. Well, no. I liked Jurassic Park; that was the last one that didn't read like it was intended for a producer's eyes. The genius of that movie was that, even though I'd read the book, it still made me jump out of my seat.
In any case, we have lost a master multimedia storyteller, and it's too bad. Sci-Fi Wire runs down some of Crichton's hits and misses.