15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Missing the Point,
This review is from: Kingdom Come (Paperback)This novel is a huge let down. As another reviewer points out, the prose is of excellent quality, and so too the setting. In fact, the first 100 pages are very enjoyable, with the main character Richard Pearson negotiating himself through an urban nightmare of consumerism, racism, and violence in order to find out who shot his father.
However, there are two main problems. Firstly, weak characterisation means that it is impossible to engage with, or care about the story. We are told that the people of this dystopia need consumerism and insanity above all else, but the reader never gets to the chance to explore this through the experiences of the characters. And neither do we end up caring about the victims of violence: there is too much of it, and not once do we get the chance to empathise with its victims. By the end of the novel, I couldn't care less who lived and who died. It is also quite preposterous that Ballard has two main characters sleep with each other and form a bond, yet hardly has any dialogue between them in the last 70 pages of the book, when they are supposedly in great danger.
The second problem with the novel, is the logic of the dystopia Ballard creates. In an attempt at originality, Ballard creates a world in which fascism emerges from the masses, rather than being created top-down by politicians. This occurs because Britain is a country of bored citizens whose main value-system is based around the purchase of consumer goods. How a general indifference, and an obsession with consumerism leads to a bottom-up revolution is not explained. As another reviewer has already hinted at, we already live in an increasingly authoritarian society, what with CCTV cameras, internment, and rules against public protest, and one could argue that it is easier for a government to pass such measures when citizens care less about politics and more about the development of a new mobile phone. It seems to me that consumerism breads apathy, rather than mass violence, allowing for top-down authoritarianism to develop.
Like other readers, I struggled to finish this book. It is conceptually weak, and more damagingly, fails to show the reader what it would actually feel like to live in this world. Orwell brilliantly demonstrates this in 1984 by placing human emotion at the centre of his story. Ballard on the other hand, fails completely.