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Reissue of JG Ballard's debut novel proper,
This review is from: The Drowned World (Paperback)
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. This is probably a love or hate book and certainly far from Ballard's best work - which novel wise would probably be 'Empire of the Sun', 'High Rise','Super Cannes' & 'The Unlimited Dream Company.'
'The Drowned World' is deserving of discovery/rediscovery in this Harper Perennial reissue alongside 'Empire of the Sun' - the ecology/entropy thing has been detailed since (most recently with the movie 'The Day After Tomorrow'), in many ways this is science fiction in its most reductive sense: Ballard taking a central idea in science then and writing a fiction. It's far from the kiddy-drivel that sci-fi has been seen as, e.g. George Lucas' tedious world of cod mythology. (I'm surprised no one has wanted to make a film of this...). 'The Drowned World' is a very good debut, one that Ballard built on with the equally good 'The Drought' (...makes me thirsty thinking about that one) and the best work of the ecology-entropy trilogy 'The Crystal World' - which surely deserves to be reissued in the near future?