More than most science fiction writers, and like the best of them, Crichton spotted trends well ahead of the public and wrote tautly written little novels. Nothing grand, but I loved his novels because they did no more than what they set out to do: provide a quick, coherent techno-thriller story without a lot of overhead: a crazy billionaire clones dinosaurs, people get eaten, good guys escape. Government scientists discover a nasty bug from outer space, try to kill it, decide they need to kill themselves to save the world, and then find a way out at the last possible moment. (Granted, Sphere did something remarkably stupid: scientists discover an American spaceship from the future and decide that that is not interesting enough, discover an alien artifact, and then completely forget that it happened).
He'll be missed.