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A kind of waiting madness, like a state of undeclared war,
This review is from: Super-Cannes (Paperback)
The opening of 'Super-Cannes' is more languid, and less tense, than that of 'Cocaine Nights'; but the narrative of each novel develops in a similar direction, and the echoes between the books are impossible to ignore. When taken as a pair they elucidate, fascinatingly, the changes and continuities in Ballard's writing. The pervasive linguistic and thematic link between the novels, and the sense that the broad strokes of the plot are shadowing - at a distance - the events of Ballard's earlier novel, suggest strongly that 'Super-Cannes' is more than just a companion piece but something more elaborately related: a reiteration, with the central premise dramatically adjusted; or, simply, 'Cocaine Nights' viewed through a complex, slightly distorting looking glass.
Sinclair, the narrator, arrives in Eden-Olympia (a large business complex) with his wife, Jane, a Doctor who has accepted a prestigious post in the park's clinic. The appointment, and their arrival, is complicated by the fact that the last person to hold the post, and live in their accommodation, was killed after embarking on a massacre of the executives (among others) he was in Eden-Olympia to treat. David Greenwood, the doctor who becomes a murderer, is the mystery at the heart of the novel. It isn't long before traces of the murders begin to appear, stray bullets and ghosts walking the spaces occupied, now, by Sinclair and his wife. Just as Charles became ever more embroiled in his investigation, Sinclair comes to be dominated by his fascination with the past. Gradually everything about Eden-Olympia seems, to Sinclair, to be contingent on the truth (or lack of) behind Greenwood's sudden, inexplicable madness.
While 'Super-Cannes' displays the usual hallmarks of a Ballard novel - sharply observed prose; eerie, unsettling atmosphere; deluded narrator surrounded by liars - it fails cohere as cogently as 'Cocaine Nights', its closest relation. Sinclair picks up the trail but there is no urgency to his investigations, narrative ambling after narrator. Much of this is intentional - Ballard wants the reader to be one (or more) steps ahead of Sinclair, to be frustrated by his inefficient actions and blindness to perpetual mendaciousness. But the side-effect - problematic in terms of pacing - is that the reader is left so distant from, and irritated by, Sinclair, that rather than feeling compelled to discover what happens (as was the case with 'Cocaine Nights') they are left with a growing apathy. Nevertheless, 'Super-Cannes' is a rich, intelligent novel - full of surprises - rewarding the patient reader with a denouement that, masterfully, manages to be both shocking and subdued.