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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breathtaking masterpiece
Although everything I have read by Ballard is excellent, I would recommend this book as a starting point. The author weaves autobiography with fiction in a compelling way; in some places the novel hints at the dream-like sequences that he has deployed in other works, but the story is firmly grounded in reality. The most apparent theme is that of survival, but I don't...
Published on 22 Jan. 2004 by J B Hutchinson

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars this is one of the rare examples where the film is better than the book
I wanted to read this book after watching the film years ago. Don't bother just watch the film in stead, this is one of the rare examples where the film is better than the book. I didn't really get into the book, it just sort of meandered along not really pulling me in.
Published 4 months ago by Mike1865


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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breathtaking masterpiece, 22 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Empire Of The Sun : (Paperback)
Although everything I have read by Ballard is excellent, I would recommend this book as a starting point. The author weaves autobiography with fiction in a compelling way; in some places the novel hints at the dream-like sequences that he has deployed in other works, but the story is firmly grounded in reality. The most apparent theme is that of survival, but I don't think Ballard wrote this with any kind of agenda; perhaps that's what's so refreshing about it.
One of his greatest talents as a writer is finding moments of beauty in what, for lesser writers, would be mires of ugliness. Ballard's voice is thoroughly modern throughout, despite the book's retrospective narrative: you can instantly tell this is the author of 'The Concrete Island' or 'High Rise', despite how remote those novels are from the second world war.
Those who have seen Spielberg's film will be thoroughly shocked: there is little sentimentality here, and the story is quite different in its later stages. Not that the film is a poor adaptation - rather, it's a seperate entity. Always read the book first!
It's wonderful that an author can use his past as a starting point for fiction, rather than being either grounded in it or evading it. It's hard to tell what is fact from what isn't, and surely that's a good thing.
Finally, I must stress that this is a book which not only survives several repeated reads but seems to require it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Empire of the Ballardian, 24 Sept. 2008
Wonderful, troubling, comic and brutal. Ballard's (barely fictionalised) account of his detention as a teenage expat in China during World War II is shot through with the thematic impulses which dominate his work - the dislocation of modernity, the seductive powers of planes and cars, the ugly underbelly of bourgeois lives, and the pleasure people take in disaster.

Despite the extreme violence central to Ballardian fiction, Empire of the Sun contains his most viscerally and physically disturbing images as the young Jim passes the rotting bodies of Japanese pilots and Chinese peasants and moves among the emaciated shapes of the upper-class English kept in the prison camps. Jim's narrative is peppered with the trials of everyday life in war - securing the next potato, passing the boring hours, negotiating the outdated social manners of adults. All of this renders the nightmares of bloodied corpses banal, and all the more disturbing for that.

This deserves its reputation as a classic. It is, however, improved considerably by taking Will Self's advice and exposing yourself to the more nominally 'fictional' of Ballard's novels (notably Crash, The Atrocity Exhibition and the Drought) before delving in here - your experience of the Ballardian social conscience will be all the richer for it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Master work, 26 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Empire of the Sun (Paperback)
Empire of the Sun is one of JG Ballard's more accessible books which tells the story of a young boy, Jim, and his experiences in Shanghai during World War Two. How many of the events in the book are taken directly from his experience is not entirely clear but the fact that he is informed by first hand experience gives the book a chilling authenticity.

The book is written entirely from the boy's point of view; all events and situations are described in Jim's own words and grounded in his own experience. Ballard makes no attempt to interject any adult interpretations or provide a retrospective opinion and maintains the integrity of the style throughout. This is no mean feat and is a clear indication of Ballard's talent as a writer.

A magnificent work by one of the greatest living English speaking novelists.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jim is astounding, his will to live both inspirational and shocking, 8 Dec. 2013
By 
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Empire of the Sun (Paperback)
4.5 stars.

Having read Schindler's Ark just last week, this made a fascinating counterpoint, WWII on uh other side of the world, where people may not have been treated as needing extermination, but in actual fact were still appallingly treated.

Jim (Jamie to his parents) is 11 when the home he knows in Shanghai is taken by the Japanese. Fending for himself, his parents vanished, Jim does what he must to survive, his instinct to live overcoming pride and dignity. Through Jim we see the harsh reality of life for a conquered people, the strong and opportunistic who thrive on the chaos of war, the prison conditions that many didn't survive.

And that fact that it's based on the author's own experiences is both illuminating and saddening, that a boy and probably many more like him had to grow up instantly or die.

There are no holds barred in prison life descriptions, and you can really picture the people Jim encounters, though the guards and Japanese in general (as well as the indigenous Chinese) are sketchily written: it's all about the Western prisoners.

Not a light read but powerful and a very good insight into the war in the East.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart of darkness, 12 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Empire of the Sun (Paperback)
The quote on the back of this book from a review by Anthony Burgess is true - that it is 'almost intolerably moving'.

This is surprising as there is not a hint of sentiment in this description of the corpse-strewn apocalyptic deathscape of Ballard's Shanghai internment camp before, during and just after the Second World War.

Empire of the Sun moves the reader because, every so often, maybe only two or three times in the book, a character notices that the endlessly suffering but stubbornly cheerful boy rushing around the camp on an exhausting round of errands is a child alone in a world which terrifies, brutalises and finally kills many of the adults around him. And then we notice.

The boy, Jim, feels the closest sympathy to the kamikaze pilots at Lunghua airfield barely older than himself, sent unregarded and unmissed to their deaths. His brief meeting with a lost kamikaze boy is a recognition of their sameness, rather than their difference.

As Jim knows, it is only by accident, or luck, that life chooses to claim him long after he has begun to believe what millions of Chinese know from birth, that we are all already as good as dead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ive read in a long while, 10 July 2013
This review is from: Empire of the Sun (Paperback)
This book is not like Ballard's other books. It doesn't have the dystopian quality of his other novels. It's very matter-of-fact, almost to the point of being cold and detached, but I think this may link to the biographical aspect of the novel and the need to remove oneself from certain experiences.

But the need to be detached is one of the things I enjoyed about the novel. Jim is a young boy who is separated from his parents during WW2 Shanghai, and he associates himself with anyone from Japanese soldiers and merchant seaman in Shanghai in order to survive, before he ends up in a prison camp. Here he again attaches himself to a variety of people in order to have some kind of family and stability.

He sees the world from a different perspective and does not seem overly affected by the lack of food and high levels of death he sees on a daily basis. He has the need to survive and does so in order to protect himself.

I think this is one of the best books i've read in a while and although the experiences are not something I can relate to it did make me sympathise with the characters and their situation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read, 3 Mar. 2014
By 
Davecg99 (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Empire of the Sun (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book. I had seen Steven Spielberg's film of the story a couple of times and while looking for another book, I saw this one and decided to get it. It goes along at a good pace and is fairly autobiographical as it tells of the 2nd World War adventures of the young J. G. Ballard in Shanghai, though as we find out in notes at the end of the book that Ballard had changed some things from his memory. These changes don't spoil the book in any way though and I recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book, 22 May 2014
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This review is from: Empire of the Sun (Paperback)
Incredibly well written and engrossing. I've read it three times so far - in the space of about 2 years. But there again I also read High Rise, Super Cannes and Cocaine Nights three times in the first year I had these books. Obviously much grittier and "realistic" than Cocaine Nights and Super Cannes. I won't go into the story and actual writing, as other review discuss this in detail.

It's very sad that J G Ballard didn't gain a reputation as an author during his lifetime with the general public, he seems to have been more much acknowledged by literary types and by other writers. He's been described as not being "mainstream" for want of a better phrase, but I find his work far more readable than say, Martin Amis, and a whole lot less depressing than a lot of books my John Irving.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb masterpiece, 3 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Empire of the Sun (Kindle Edition)
Ballard first came to fame for writing dystopias like "The Drowned Word" and "The Wind from Nowhere". I remember them as being some of the more interesting science fiction books I read as a teenager, and have often dipped into his oeuvre since, and have usually had the satisfaction of reading the same kind of strange and fascinating work I encountered in my youth. On reading this work, and his superb autobiography, I can now see the origins of his "worlds gone crazy". This is the most amazing dystopic novel I've ever read, probably because this dystopia was actually encountered by Ballard as a child. That said, the hero of the novel ("JIm") has more extreme and varied experiences in the city of Shanghai during and after its takeover by Japanese forces in WWII. Ballard is obviously uses his own experiences as a spring board for a wider and deeper account of what happens in a total war, and the hated overlords ("the British") lose power. Jim is the centre of the story, a waif lost in a giant city under collapse, and encountering Dickensian-like wastrels and eccentrics who, against the odds, help him to survive. Think David Copperfield combined with Lord of the Flies and you may get some impression of what this novel is like. It has the magnificent wide sweep of the former, and the account of childhood innocence and depravity, under extreme experience, found in the latter. I wonder why Ballard never won the Nobel prize?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars old favourite, 22 Jun. 2014
By 
E. A. Mcnair (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Empire of the Sun (Kindle Edition)
Ordered this to read as I love the film. I still prefer the story in the film, even though only elements of it are close to the truth, it is just a story. It was almost disappointing to discover the book so different, and the true story different again. However, I still enjoyed the book, if something so harrowing can be enjoyed. It was certainly thought provoking, and made more tragic being seen from the point of a child, whose mind cannot understand/accept what is really happening and insists on seeing things as it/he wishes them to be.
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Empire Of The Sun :
Empire Of The Sun : by J. G. Ballard (Paperback - 12 Sept. 1994)
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