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The Drowned World [Paperback]

J. G. Ballard , Martin Amis
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

10 April 2014

When London is lost beneath the rising tides, unconscious desires rush to the surface in this apocalyptic tale from the author of ‘Crash’ and ‘Empire of the Sun’, reissued here with a new introduction from Martin Amis.

Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows up the walls of the Ritz and primeval reptiles are sighted, swimming through the newly-formed lagoons.

Some flee the capital; others remain to pursue reckless schemes, either in the name of science or profit. While the submerged streets of London are drained in search of treasure, Dr Robert Kerans – part of a group of intrepid scientists – comes to accept this submarine city and finds himself strangely resistant to the idea of saving it.

First published in 1962, Ballard’s mesmerising and ferociously imaginative novel gained him widespread critical acclaim and established his reputation as one of Britain’s finest writers of science fiction.

This edition is part of a new commemorative series of Ballard’s works, featuring introductions from a number of his admirers (including Robert Macfarlane, Martin Amis, James Lever and Ali Smith) and brand-new cover designs.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; Reprint edition (10 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007221835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007221837
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,458 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

Amazon Review

This torrid, powerful 1962 novel--the 17th of Millennium's very strong SF Masterworks classic reprints--was a major turning point in J.G. Ballard's career. In this future our old world has been gradually drowned as global warming melts the ice-caps and primordial jungles and swamps have returned to tropical London, recreating the ancient ecology of the Triassic age. According to the logic of Ballardian "inner space", these Turkish-bath surroundings evoke the psychological suction of the deep past, calling the human "hindbrain" back to the enfolding warmth of the womb. The text is rich with dreamy phrases like "the fata morgana of the terminal lagoon" and "the brighter day of the interior, archaeopsychic sun". As various members of an expedition to London busy themselves with more or less futile schemes like draining Leicester Square in hope of loot, the passive central character Kerans moves in his own "neuronic odyssey" to a strange acceptance of and assimilation by this lushly transformed world, vanishing into a final epiphany of heat and light. There is little narrative drive or sense of story (fans of rip-roaring, action-adventure SF tend not to get on with Ballard). The Drowned World is a potent, sensual mood-piece--static, jewelled and unforgettable. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


‘The most important British writer of the latter half of the 20th century’ Will Self

‘Powerful and beautifully clear … Ballard’s potent symbols of beauty and dismay inundate the reader’s mind’ Brian Aldiss

‘One of the brightest stars in post-war fiction. This tale of strange and terrible adventure in a world of steaming jungles has an oppressive power reminiscent of Conrad’ Kingsley Amis

‘Extraordinarily prescient … Ballard is a prophet’ Philip Pullman, Guardian

‘The terrifying thing about Ballard is his logic; is this science fiction or history written ahead of its time?’ Len Deighton

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Planet Sauna 20 April 2007
The world is heating up as a result of solar instability. Ice caps have melted and oceans have risen, flooding low-lying areas. Once temperate zones remaining above sea level have become areas of lush, tropical jungle. Surviving populations have had to migrate to the cooler, polar regions. A party of soldier and scientist representatives of these exiled people, have travelled down from the north to study the new flora and fauna that is mutating and evolving rapidly back towards ancient Triassic forms. Some members of the party start to have disturbing dreams of belonging to a hotter, wetter climate and feel drawn in the direction of the equator by some sort of ancestral memory of living in a primeval swamp. The bloated sun and steaming jungle start to feel like a fond memory of the womb to those who are most susceptible and the hypnotic pull of it dominates even their waking hours.

Some reviewers have complained that this is not proper science fiction, not hard science fiction, not fast-paced, not plot-driven. Ballard places it in an area on the fringe of science fiction that he calls `speculative fantasy' - an area where `dream and reality become fused together'. When I started the book I hoped it might be something like John Wyndham's `The Kraken Wakes', but it's different in almost every way, apart from the flooding. There's no enemy to defeat in order to re-establish normality. There are no solutions to the problem, other than avoidance in the shrinking cool zone. A few individuals are making mental adjustments to the catastrophic climate change that seem superficially like a sort of Lamarckian evolutionary adaptation, but the chances of their survival, in isolation, in the crocodile populated swamp areas look doubtful.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Key to Ballard's Ideas 12 Jan 2013
By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Overarching Ballard's novels is a fascination with what happens to otherwise civilised people when placed under extreme stress by the breakdown in their living environment. Ballard's stories effectively assert that the better angels in our nature will just not prevail, for they invariably chart the reversion of modern men and women to a predatory hunter-gatherer mode of living.

The war-like tribe is presented as our primary state across the range of books by him I have previously read, from High-Rise to Kingdom Come and even Empire of the Sun. Humans do not evolve: they `devolve', reverting to a prior psychological and social condition.

The post-war idea that due to environmental breakdown man can revert into a uncivilised hunter-gatherer had, of course, inspired not only French existentialism, but a range of disturbing speculative British novels from William Golding's Lord of the Flies to John Christopher's The Death of Grass. They all mirror a belief and deep fear of Ballard's generation, which had witnessed the inhuman attrocities of the Second World War, indeed, he had lived through and experienced this breakdown at first hand as a child (as Empire of the Sun reveals).
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reissue of JG Ballard's debut novel proper 2 Mar 2006
By Jason Parkes #1 HALL OF FAME
In 1961, J.G. Ballard published a key work of the British New Wave of Science Fiction, his debut novel 'The Drowned World.' This is a minor lie, as Ballard's first novel was entitled 'The Wind from Nowhere' and something that he wrote on a holiday - a book now deleted Orwell style from his oeuvre and likely to be a novel/lla of curio value rather than literary merit. 'The Wind from Nowhere' did predict the themes of Ballard's initial wave of novels published alongside those groundbreaking short-stories (see 'The Terminal Beach' & 'The Voices of Time'). Ballard's initial concerns hinged around ecology and entropy...
'The Drowned World' focuses on a 21st Century world where fluctuations in solar radiation have lead to the polar ice-caps melting & the sea levels rising. Coming just a few years after the Millhaven disaster, 'The Drowned World' is a prescient book (it's only George Bush and his oil engorged cronies who really believe this isn't happening, isn't it?) - and one that might make sense when experiencing something surreal like a whale in the Thames (though here the species are more tropical).
'The Drowned World' like many Ballard novels takes a central idea and runs with it, already those key titled chapters are apparent ('The Drowned Ark', 'The Pool of Thanatos', 'Descent Into Deep Time', & 'The Paradises of the Sun' - the latter not far from the title of Ballard's most famous book 'Empire of the Sun'!). 'The Drowned World' doesn't offer much in terms of plot - the drowning world is what happens and central character Kerans (a precursor of Travens et al) embraces this new world. The feeling of the book is one that's advancing on earlier works by Joseph Conrad and Aldous Huxley - and it's a book of profound imagery that you can literally get lost (...drown?) in.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Seriously Dull
My first JG Ballard and my last. I cared nothing for the characters. The premise of the book was lame, and the plot just limped along. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Esperera
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book but Kindle version has many errors.
A fine piece of writing from Ballard and recommended for the story (4 stars) however the Kindle book has missing line spaces and has spelling mistakes rather more frequently than... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Vladimir
3.0 out of 5 stars Unclear and disappointing
The Drowned World by J G Ballard
A flooded, tropical setting for London in the future was an interesting idea that tempted me to read this novel. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Pfid
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting in the current floods
A good read concerning climate changes enhanced by recent weather conditions. It prompted many questions about the future environment and our responses to it.
Published 6 months ago by maz
4.0 out of 5 stars The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard
An excellent prediction about global warming, and rising ocean levels? Perhaps. A good read anyway. The plot holds your attention anyway.
Published 7 months ago by Chris Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars Rising Damp
Interesting but in the 50 years since it was published, the creaky plot, and the frankly awful treatment of the female and the black characters stick out too much to maintain its... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mr F Marslen-Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars What? Not proper sci-fi?
Some of the reviews on this novel are completely misleading. This is a great work of (early) sci-fi. Read more
Published 9 months ago by William
5.0 out of 5 stars Immersion in a primordial stew
My first Ballard book, and I adored immersing myself in the richness of this vivid landscape, repulsive as it was, and strangely beautiful as it was. Read more
Published 12 months ago by S. Theron
3.0 out of 5 stars Light weight sci-fi
I read this as a teenager but had forgotten. It's a light weight read but ok holiday type reading. ...
Published 13 months ago by Simon Stiles
4.0 out of 5 stars strangely irritating writing style
good story concept , but not having read Ballard before I didn't know what to expect. found the writing style a bit tiresome, but read it quickly so cannot have been that bad.
Published 13 months ago by SB
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