The Drowned World, by J.G. Ballard


Orthodox Herbertarian

At one point in my life, pretty early on in my exploration of the genre actually, I was an enthusiastic fan of J.G. Ballard's works. My father had a few in his meager SF collection, and I absconded with them about the time I found Dune on the same shelf. I became an even greater fan after watching the amazing Spielberg movie of the first book of Ballard's autobiography, Empire of the Sun, a film I still love to this day. One of my favorite scenes in that movie is when the allied fighter plane buzzes the Japanese runway unexpectedly near the end of the film, right after the atomic bomb has gone off in Japan. ILM did the sound for that scene, I believe, and in 70mm surround sound, it's like you are there. But since the late 80's when I think I really started to develop an eye and ear for SF, Ballard's work for me lost a bit of its luster. I was more interested in at the time in hard SF, and quite frankly as I matured I found that there were parts I just read over before. In my mind I became more and more confused about this author. I always have a hard time categorizing his work. The best that I can do is to say that he had a penchant for catastrophe stories, but to refine the categorization any further than that is quite difficult. Sometimes I think that Ballard is "post-cozy catastrophe," but that really does not work very well, and may be too fetishistic a description for non-genre readers. Certainly, he has a very different formula then Wyndham or any of his contemporaries had. Instead of "cozy," Ballard's description of post apocalyptic landscapes are surreal, sublime, and frightening on a level that is one or two steps shy of H.P. Lovecraft. I think what I find so confusing about Ballard's work is that he often came up with a world-wrecking idea, but when he told his story it was often tight and highly focused on a small group of people in a very small geographic area, and more often than not the main story hinged on some sort of unrequited love or sexual frustration. That is what was going on in this week's novel, The Drowned World, by J.G. Ballard...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review..