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The Terminal Beach [Paperback]

J.G. Ballard
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

20 Nov 1997
The Terminal Beach is one of Ballard's most brilliant collections of short stories, ranging from the title story's disturbing picture of an abandoned atomic testing island in the Pacific to the shocking Oedipal fantasy of 'The Gioconda of the Twilight Noon'. At the heart of the stories lies the bitter paradox that the extraordinary creative power of man's imagination is matched only by his reckless instinct for destruction. 'One of the few genuine surrealists this country has produced, the possessor of a terrifying and exhilarating imagination - and a national treasure' Guardian

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New edition edition (20 Nov 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575401311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575401310
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 515,570 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

Book Description

A first-class short story collection from bestselling author J G Ballard

About the Author

SALES POINTS Reissued in a new cover style alongside The Voices of Time J G Ballard is widely recognised as one of the finest writers of the 20th century His novel 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. 'Ballard's ferocious intelligence, his wit, his cantankerousness, and in particular his extraordinary rendering of the perverse pleasures of today's paranoia, make him one of the grand magicians of modern fiction' Brian Aldiss 'It is utterly appropriate to number Ballard among the true contemporary radicals of the imagination . . . His best work is simply a new way of looking at the world' New Musical Express

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ALL day they had moved steadily upstream, occasionally pausing to raise the propeller and cut away the knots of weed, and by 3 o'clock had covered some seventy-five miles. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thermometer of the Nuclear Noon 18 Mar 2001
By A Customer
Containing stories written in the early to mid sixties "The Terminal Beach" is arguably the best collection of Ballard's short fiction. It is not, in my opinion, overly hubristic to claim that two of the pieces, "The Drowned Giant" and the story of the collection's title (both written in 1964)are worthy of comparison to shorts produced by literary masters like Kafka and Borges. In the former, a dead giant - the body of a man of "Homeric statue" is washed ashore on the coast of an unknown city. What surprises the reader however is the reaction of the citizens towards this "amazing event": even Swift's Gulliver might be surpised. In "The Terminal Beach", Ballard grapples head on with the existential angst of the Cold War, or as the protagonist Traven calls it, "The Thermo-nuclear Noon" of Western Culture. This story, with its strangely fractured narrative style, was a ground-breaking move for the author which led to classics like "The Atrocity Exhibition" and "Crash". The remainder of the collection is supported by pieces of high quality, if not, so mercurial as the two leads. "The End-Game" is a study of guilt and innocence (Ballard fans will remember the importance of these themes to "Empire of the Sun") whilst "The Delta at Sunset" and "The Gioconda of the Twilight Noon" draw upon the author's surrealist imagination. If you only ever read one collection of Ballard shorts (if you ever find yourself looking out across the sea from the world's last beach!)this is the one to take.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius at work 14 April 2004
By Jerald R Lovell - Published on Amazon.com
This is a collection of short stories by J.G. Ballard, whose surrealistic approach to science fiction reaches its apex in this effort. "End Game", a story of executions in the future, leaves the reader not exactly knowing if the imprisoned political leader is about to be executed at its end, but the character development borders on the fabulous.
Also recommended most highly are "Now Comes the Sea", and "Chronopolis", the latter being the story of a society where time measurement is outlawed, and of the outlaw who wants to bring it back.. You will never forget any of these stories. V
Very, very highly recommended. This is a genius at his best.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fairly good collection of stories 14 April 1999
By Babytoxie - Published on Amazon.com
Maybe even a 4.5. Not as comprehensive as "The Best Short Stories of...", but it's a good intro to Ballard's work. It gives a first-time reader a good idea of what to expect. Ballard writes some top-notch stories (The Drowned Giant, Bilennium, Deep End - all included here), but in his collections, they always seem to get diluted by the not-so-greats. Still, the majority of the stories in this book are quite good; more forward-thinking and original than anything that came out of that period. I think the best quality of his stories is that they deal with societal concerns, and not just sci-fi. Quite an enjoyable book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luminous Elegy 26 Mar 2007
By Elizabeth A. Stack - Published on Amazon.com
The title story has a rich and luminous serenity that is both gentle and unsettling. It is very characteristic of Ballard's best work, and serves as a bridge between his earlier science fiction books, and his later surrealistic novels. There is a distinct link to T.S. Eliot..."The Terminal Beach" could be a response to "Burnt Norton." This book is an excellent introduction to one of the great writers of the 20th Century.
4.0 out of 5 stars Ponderous scenarios and poignant inklings 1 Jun 2012
By M-I-K-E 2theD - Published on Amazon.com
The only other Ballard collection I've been exposed to is Vermilion Sands (1971), which is a collection of stories taking place in a future Palm Springs, of sorts. With Ballard's typical luscious prose and imagination, the stories unravel beautifully with the spiced blend of art and technology.

It's difficult to compare that collection with this one. Terminal Beach isn't an all-inclusive collection with an obvious central theme, but some nuances in each story bring to the surface a fixation on the metamorphosis between the live organic body into the realm of the stagnant dead. The two extremes are not the focus of the collection's subject matter, rather it is the mid-point which is explored: the actual metamorphosis.

It's just not gorgeous prose which captivates the reader, nor is it the wondrous science fiction scaffolding found throughout Terminal Beach, but it's the wow-factor found in some of the passages which really make you think: "The only real landscapes are the internal ones, or the external projections of them." (The Delta at Sunset, 121) and "Each of us is little more than the meagre residue of the infinite unrealized possibilities of our lives." (The Terminal Beach, 153). This isn't a collection to rush through--it's one to slowly absorb, deconstruct, and reflect upon.


A Question of Re-entry (1963) - 4/5 - An Amazonian tribe harbors a recluse foreigner, Ryker, who is a contact for a downriver trader, Pereire. Aboard the trader's vessel is a UN space agency representative in search of a crashed capsule from five years prior. Ryker has a fondness for clocks and holds an abusive sway over the idling local tribe. Admitting no knowledge of the crash, Pereire docks next to the village so Connolly can reconnoiter about. 32 pages

The Drowned Giant (1964) - 5/5 - Upon a shore after an evening squall, the body of a giant is spied in the shallow waters. The word spreads and onlookers gather to gape and, later, ascend the massive humanoid carcass. Over time, limbs are amputated, graffiti is inflicted, and the general corruption of the corpse is reflected in the corrupted morality of the crowd. The keepsake parts such as bones and phallus are gaudily put on public and private display as the giant corpse lays sentinel on the beach. 11 pages

End-Game (1963) - 4/5 - Constantin is pronounced guilty as a trial he says is flawed. His sentence is death; however, he will not know the time or method of his death, only the place and the face of the executioner, Malek. Together in a villa, Malek acts as Constantin's supervisor during his remote incarceration. As the two play chess Constantin dissects Malek's psyche and they debate the points of the trial and the intentions of the Department of Justice, all the while his execution looms. 23 pages

The Illuminated Man (1964) - 4/5 - In the Everglades, he city of Maynard has been evacuated and the entire state of Florida soon follows. What's left behind is an expanding forest of crystalization, a hotspot for the unnatural conversion of all things to iridescent crystal form. One man has strayed from his expedition and finds himself alone under the faceted canopy, where boats, alligators, and people have all been crystallized. The only remedy: keep running. 31 pages

The Reptile Enclosure (1963) - 4/5 - A couple gaze at the crowded beach where the sea of flesh and analog radios underline the spanning ocean and towering sky. Conversing without aim, the couple bask behind the expanse of sunbathers. The husband eyes a familiar face among the crowd, someone with curious theories as to the nature of the recent satellites launches, one of which is occurring as the mass stands to linger at the shoreline, eying the bland azure sky. 12 pages

The Delta at Sunset (1964) - 4/5 - At dusk, Gifford sits in his tent in spectacle of the whithering landscape of snakes which amass at the same time everyday. An infected foot wound has left him bed-ridden as his wife and assistant tour the excavation site of an Indian temple. Without word from the doctor or the scout sent after him, Gifford experiences the ebb and surge of delirium as he suspects his wife of adultery in the neighboring tent. 17 pages

The Terminal Beach (1964) - 3/5 - Deliriously visiting an old nuclear testing island, a man seeks his wife and son who he lost in an automobile accident. Haunted by their spectral figures, he traverses the island inspecting the remains of concrete cuboids, camera towers, and the derelict airbase. Gathering canned food and mementos of vicarious echoes, the man is stricken with beri-beri yet is unwilling to accept the aid of researchers or airmen, finding comfort in his deliriousness. 22 pages

Deep End (1961) - 4/5 - Earth's oceans have been sapped of its oxygen, an element essential for terraforming colonized planets. With the earth nearly depopulated, only the stubborn elders still survive. Yet, the 22-year old Holliday choses to eke out his existence on the old seabed of the Atlantic Ocean, one of the only inhabitable places left. Nearby is Lake Atlantic, a sliver of its once great expanse, which contains a shard of biological history which Holliday invests his motivation into. 13 pages

The Volcano Dances (1964) - 2/5 - Sitting ponderously upon the slope of a volcanic crater sits a village. The raging molten earth sends plumes of gas and dust into the air. Further downslope is a man biding his time, an audience of one for a show yet be started, yet to be named. He pays the witch doctor one dollar per dance, not knowning if his gyrations are hindering or helping the angry release of the historic soup of liquid earth beneath his feet. 6 pages

Billennium (1961) - 5/5 - The four square meters of alloted living space in the city seems to suit everyone well. The entire population has amassed in the cities which flow with endless shoulder-to-shoulder traffic. Ward and Rossiter decide to rent a double but miraculously discover an empty fifteen square foot behind one wall. They invite two friends to stay in this cavernous room, but the openness of it spurs them to invite more people. Twenty billion people all need somewhere to live. 16 pages

The Gioconda of the Twilight Moon (1964) - 2/5 - Wrapped in bandages and swathed in memories, a man revisits his childhood home as he convalesces from an eye injury. During this time, his wife cares for him but he is largely left to himself as he discovers his mind's third eye. He mentally visits the shallows of the shore and the caves of the coast, all while watched by a green-cloaked observer. His wife's interruptions cause him distress. 10 pages

The Lost Leonardo (1964) - 5/5 - The disappearance of Leonardo's Crucifixion from the Louvre has stumped curators, collectors, and investigators alike. Upon further research, Georg de Stael has found other stolen yet recovered crucifixion paintings from the last two hundred years. The area of concern in each painting is the alteration of the figure of Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew. Georg's theory needs to be tested and the auction in Madeleine may draw the culprit out. 20 pages
4.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, compelling speculations from a master 1 Aug 2009
By T. Burrows - Published on Amazon.com
This collection of Ballard's stories contains some of his earlier stuff - it may have been his first published collection. For someone like me, who has read a few of his books, it is interesting to see how some of the ideas he brings out here got worked on and elaborated in later books. Overall, it is a mixed bag, not as consistent conceptually as some of his other collections. Here are Ballard's lonely, stoic heroes, confronting extreme circumstances that are not always technological in origin. Some of the pieces find them dealing with primitive worlds, or inner demons, or the horrors of contemporary life. Ballard is usually not at his best when describing relationships; he is much more powerful when he focuses on his bleak speculative fictions, and he does this very well in the title story. "End-Game" is another good one; a look at a condemned politician from a totalitarian country who tries desperately to win over the thug who is watching over him.

I did at times have to ask myself what was enjoyable about this book. His prose is admirable, for one thing - always very cool and precise, with a powerful vocabulary and detailed descriptions. Below this metallic surface is often something dark and disturbing, a hypothetical scenario of the world falling apart, yet doing so in a way that is fascinating and strangely beautiful. There is a lot of unstated fear lurking in the corners of these stories and their dangerous speculative settings, and yet they can be very interesting places to visit.
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