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Concrete Island [Paperback]

J. G. Ballard
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2008

A chilling novel about our modern world, from the author of Empire of the Sun and Crash.

An 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 marooned on the concrete island. In this twisted version of Robinson Crusoe, our hero must learn to survive - using only what he can find in his crashed car.

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 our finest writers.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (1 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007287046
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007287048
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,342 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

'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

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, 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 most recent novel is Kingdom Come, published in 2006, his autobiography Miracles of Life was published in 2008 to much acclaim. J.G. Ballard died in 2009.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 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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13 of 13 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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nightmare Allegory of the Machine Age 13 Jun 2011
By J C E Hitchcock TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing... 10 April 2011
By Tommy b
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I won't add much to the other reviews, except to say that I felt it was unfinished, the main character is a bit stupid and the way that stupidity manifests itelf is annoying, and the Kindle edition is littered with typos. Bad ones. Such as the word 'die' instead of 'the' 3 times, for example. There are many more. Poor show.
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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
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 9 days 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 3 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 3 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 9 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 10 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 10 months ago by Hayley Clinton
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyman washed up on concrete
deeply affecting tale of alienation and isolation in which the reader is always unsure of the level of motivation for escape. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Concrete Island
I'm a big fan of Ballard's stranger stories and found this in a thrift store. The idea blew me away in a sort of "Damn, that's so good and I wish I'd thought of it first! Read more
Published 23 months ago by David Brookes
4.0 out of 5 stars Top-notch Ballard
An ideal introduction for anyone previously unfamiliar with Ballard's writing. Intriguing plot, startling imagery and, in places, darkly humorous. All this in less than 180 pages. Read more
Published on 6 Feb 2012 by Sean65
4.0 out of 5 stars Odd Edition
The novel is great. Straightforward storytelling and lean, cold prose are used to examine a bizarre situation. Read more
Published on 31 May 2011 by Booklister
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