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Concrete Island [Paperback]

J. G. Ballard , Neil Gaiman
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Aug 2014

A chilling novel that pays twisted homage to Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’. Newly reissued with an introduction from Neil Gaiman.

Robert Maitland, a 35 year-old architect, is driving home from his London offices when a blow-out sends his speeding Jaguar hurtling out of control. Smashing through a temporary barrier he finds himself, dazed and disorientated, on a traffic island below three converging motorways. But when he tries to climb the embankment or flag-down a passing car for help it proves impossible - and he finds himself imprisoned on the concrete island. Maitland must survive using only what he can find in his crashed car.

As in all Ballard’s best work ‘Concrete Island’ provides an unnerving study of our modern lives and world. With his alienating, ‘Ballardian’ view of normal events, this is a unique novel from one of the twentieth century’s finest writers.

This edition is part of a new commemorative series of Ballard’s works, featuring introductions from a number of his admirers (including Zadie Smith, Adam Philips, Adam Thirlwell and Robert Macfarlane) and brand-new cover designs from the artist Stanley Donwood.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (28 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007287046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007287048
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai, where his father was a businessman. After internment in a civilian prison camp, he and his family returned to England in 1946. He published his first novel, The Drowned World, in 1961. His 1984 bestseller Empire of the Sun won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was later filmed by Steven Spielberg. His memoir Miracles of Life was published in 2008. J.G. Ballard died in 2009.

Product Description


'This allegory of modern life is both compelling and profound' Daily Telegraph

'Ballard's violent exact prose carries you along irresistibly. You believe him, you accept his vision, and it is a fearful one' Sunday Telegraph

‘A tour de force … a nightmare we can all share’ Daily Mail

'Ballard writes with taut and precise economy, and the moral of his brilliantly original fable is plain: the interstices of our concrete jungle are filled with neglected people, and one day those people could be ourselves' Sunday Times

‘Perfectly enjoyable within the horror comic tradition … exceptionally skilful’ Auberon Waugh, Evening Standard

About the Author

J. G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai. After internment in a civilian prison camp, his family returned to England in 1946. His 1984 bestseller ‘Empire of the Sun’ won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His controversial novel ‘Crash’ was made into a film by David Cronenberg. His autobiography ‘Miracles of Life’ was published in 2008, and a collection of interviews with the author, ‘Extreme Metaphors’, was published in 2012. J. G. Ballard passed away in 2009.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing and memorable story 16 July 2000
This is Ballard at his malignant best. In a weird update of Robinson Crusoe, he tells the story of a man marooned in the middle of a London motorway, of his attempts to escape, of his survival strategies, of his encounters with the human wildlife of the contemporary urban environment. I read it years ago and it sticks in my mind like a splinter.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great book ruined by kindle mistypes 16 April 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm only half way through reading this book and may never finish. The text is regularly interrupted by mistakes that have clearly been caused by scanning the text and not checking the results. The first mistake, the character name Maitland being called 'Mart-land', appears within the first few pages and the error 'Mait-land' appears so frequently it's almost laughable. White City becomes 'White Qty' and so it goes on...

This book is cheaper in kindle format than paperback but given that the electronic reproduction costs are virtually zero it is very aggravating that the publishers could not be bothered to spend even minutes proof-reading.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nightmare Allegory of the Machine Age 13 Jun 2011
J. G. Ballard's "Concrete Island" is, essentially, an adaptation of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, updating the story from the seventeenth century to the 1970s and relocating it from a remote desert island to West London. Yes, that's right. West London.
The "island" on which the action takes place is a triangular section of fenced-off wasteland formed by the intersection of two motorways. The protagonist of the story, Robert Maitland, is marooned on the island when his car crashes. An injury to his leg leaves him unable to climb the fence or steep banks which surround the island, and the fact that it is screened from public view means that he and his car are unlikely to be seen from the surrounding roads. His irregular home life also adds to his predicament. He has both a wife and a mistress, and spends time living with both women, who are seemingly happy with this arrangement. His disappearance therefore goes unnoticed for some time, as both women assume that he is with the other. Maitland is forced to survive on what he is able to find on the island. He discovers, however, that he is not its only inhabitant; he shares it with Jane Sheppard, young women of good family on the run from a failed marriage, and Proctor, a mentally handicapped former circus acrobat.

The setting of the story is absolutely precise, both in place and time. Maitland's crash occurs at the intersection of the Westway and the M4 Motorway soon after three o'clock on the afternoon of Thursday 22nd April 1973 (a year before the book was published). Or, at least, it purports to be absolutely precise, but Ballard's opening paragraph contains two deliberate mistakes. In reality, April 22nd 1973 was not a Thursday but a Sunday- in fact, it was Easter Day. And at no point does the Westway intersect with the M4.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, homespun science-fiction 30 July 2012
This is a book I should have read earlier. This is a book I've had in the back of my mind to read for a very long time now, and it shames me a little that I've only just got around to it.

If you think about it, the notion of a man who gets stuck on a traffic island, a patch of wasteland at the intersection of the new motorway network, is something which could also have been done by the contemporaneous `Monty Python's Flying Circus'. (Imagine Michael Palin's 'It's' man staring forlornly at the traffic). But Ballard - from that period in the early seventies when he was at his visionary best - takes the situation entirely seriously, thinking logically and sensibly about how this would happen and what the poor castaway would have to do to survive and try to ensure his rescue.

Although if it was written today the author would have to explain what happened to the lead character's mobile phone, this still feels a fresh and contemporary novel. Reading it at this precise moment, where there's a lot of talk of the top 1% who take all the money and everybody else who has to pay for it (a debate which has even subsumed the new Batman film), then this book feels weirdly tapped into the mood. Our lead protagonist crashes his jaguar, and those he meets see him as a slick capitalist, an exploiter and try to give him a little comeuppance. So far, so Guardian reader's wet dream - but of course, this being Ballard, things never follow a predictable path

'Concrete Island' is a genuinely far reaching and yet small and recognisable novel. And it stands at the apex of Ballard's homespun science fiction.(
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not the best! 21 May 2009
You know when you find a book and cant put it down? Well this is not that book. I have just discovered JG Ballard and flew through Cocaine Nights, Super Cannes and High Rise with relish but Concrete Island slowed me down. A great premise to start with but I eventually found the book a little tiresome. Though nonetheless enjoyable and a must for fans of this late, great author.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crazy, crazy stuff!!! 10 May 2002
"A man crashes into a traffic island and has to stay there - what can possible happen here?" I asked myself that question, not knowing what to expect. In fact, I couldn't see where, if anywhere, Ballard could go. But, intrigued, I gave it a go - and how wrong was I!!
The lead character, a doctor with little morals, begins life on the island as a useless case, struggling to sustain himself with food or water. But things change when he realises he isn't alone - there's not only another person living there, but two, totally contrasting human beings. And so the struggle to survive and ultimately leave the island begins.
The most interesting part of this novel: out of all the devious and dispicable acts committed on the island - the two inhabitants being a control freak and, well, a kind of inbred prehistoric man - the most calculated, gruesome act is carried out by the intelligent doctor. And it is he - the intelligent, sholared and succesful man - who's desire to be the most dominant is the greatest. It's almost like a survival of the fittest he's playing with himself. Is Ballard saying something about our own innate humanity here? Perhaps.
All in all a very entertaing read which, as another reviewr described, 'sticks in your side like a thorn'.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb read
Just another JG Ballard masterpiece filled with brutal landscapes and isolated people experiencing harshness in a catastrophically erotic manner. Masterful.
Published 1 month ago by David James Searle
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Superb story.
Published 1 month ago by Just a Number
5.0 out of 5 stars A retelling of Shakespeare's "The Tempest"?
On the basis of so much critical material treating Ballard's Concrete Island as Robinson Crusoe reframed in early 1970s London, I just wasn't expecting the major structural shift... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Christopher H
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A truly compelling read! Enough suspense to keep you reading, even though you should be doing something else!
Published 4 months ago by Mrs Fiona A Beveridge
3.0 out of 5 stars Good start but didn't like second half much
This is an archetypal Ballard offering. A motorway driver, Robert Maitland, crashes his car over an embankment into an overgrown island of weeds and rusted metal between three... Read more
Published 6 months ago by John Hopper
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic
This is an all time classic in it's genre. Very atmospheric and believable. It is a book I return to again and again. I never look at motorways in the same way!
Published 10 months ago by Deborah Brookes
4.0 out of 5 stars I would like to put the spell checker for this ebook on a concrete...
I hadn't read anything by JG Ballard before reading this and I have to say that it was a very well written narrative. Read more
Published 10 months ago by P. A. James
3.0 out of 5 stars Oddly fascinating
My second JGB novel. To anybody who travels by car around the country this is intriguing, the 'left' spaces look alien and often wasteful, but the story did not seem to expand on... Read more
Published 16 months ago by vivienne dyson
5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing but good read
This book is about an executive who crashes his jaguar into a concrete island left by the construction of motorways. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Brian
5.0 out of 5 stars my son loved it
Bought as a present for my son who gave me a list of books he wanted so he was very pleased with it
Published 17 months ago by Hayley Clinton
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