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Empire of the Sun by [Ballard, J. G.]
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Empire of the Sun Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Length: 331 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

"An outstanding novel...a classic adventure story."-- "The New York Times"

Synopsis

The heartrending story of British boy Jim's four year ordeal in a Japanese prison camp during the second world war. Filmed by Steven Spielberg. Now available for the first time on CD. Based on J. G. Ballard's own childhood, this is the extraordinary account of a boy's life in Japanese-occupied wartime Shanghai -- a mesmerising, hypnotically compelling novel of war, of starvation and survival, of internment camps and death marches. It blends searing honesty with an almost hallucinatory vision of a world thrown utterly out of joint. Rooted as it is in the author's own disturbing experience of war in our time, it is one of a handful of novels by which the twentieth century will be not only remembered but judged.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1560 KB
  • Print Length: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; (Reissue) edition (28 Jun. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000728313X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007283132
  • ASIN: B00457WT9E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #22,790 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: Paperback
4.5 stars.

Having read Schindler's Ark just last week, this made a fascinating counterpoint, WWII on the other side of the world, where people may not have been treated as requiring 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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By Officer Dibble VINE VOICE on 10 Aug. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The shocking brutality of life in and around a Japanese Internment Camp. The bookends of the story are Pearl Harbour and Nagasaki.

The triumph of this novel is to tell this horrific story through the eyes of young Jim a ten year old boy separated from his parents and effectively an orphan. The harrowing details of, inter alia, forced death marches, being literally worked to death in the construction of an airstrip, casual and extreme brutality, starvation, are all perceived from a child's viewpoint.

This is a child who is so hungry he 'sucks his own knuckles, grateful for the taste of his own pus' yet who still admires the Japanese pilots and, extremely controversially, regards the British 'as passive as the Chinese peasants'. Because it is told from the child's viewpoint it almost acted as a defence mechanism for the reader, otherwise it would have been tempting to avert one's eyes in disgust.

This gripping novel shows what happens when the veneer of civilisation is removed and Jim pursues his extraordinary childhood without any parental or moral authority.

The fact that much of the content is autobiographical adds gravitas. Highly recommended.
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