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Millennium People Hardcover – 15 Sep 2003

3.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; 1st edition (15 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000225848X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002258487
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.7 x 22.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 524,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

The peasants, goes a tedious old joke about Wat Tyler's mob, are revolting. In JG Ballard's unnerving, prophetic novel Millennium People, however, it's the middle classes that are staging the revolution: blowing up the NFT, burning their books and defaulting on their maintenance charges. Rejecting, in short, everything that they've worked so hard for--The Bonfire of the Volvos, as one rather droll chapter heading has it.

At the forefront of this petit bourgeois insurrection are the occupants of Fulham's Chelsea Marina, (as ever with Ballard) an exclusive housing community. Led by the charismatic Dr Richard Gould, a disgraced paediatrician turned "Doctor Moreau of the Chelsea set", Marina residents Kay Churchill, a former film lecturer; civil servant Vera Britain and Stephen Dexter, the parish vicar and an injured airman (another Ballard perennial) have unleashed an arson campaign against targets deemed suitably middle class.

David Markham, a psychiatrist and the book's steely narrator, is drawn into the Marina's inner circle after his ex-wife Laura is killed in an apparently meaningless bomb attack at Heathrow airport, (prime Ballard territory, of course). Meaningless is the insistent motif: Markham's current wife Sally was crippled in a freak accident and the murder of a banal if inoffensive television presenter (loosely modelled on Jill Dando) is one of the seemingly random violent acts unleashed by Gould, precisely because of their apparent randomness. "The absence of rational motive", as he says, "carries a significance of its own".

A master of sustained unease, Ballard has again excelled in fashioning a gripping, psychologically disturbing novel, that, like High Rise or Super-Cannes, is part cultural analysis and part surreal social prediction. --Travis Elborough


Praise for ‘Super-Cannes’:

‘Sublime…The first essential novel of the 21st century.’ Independent

Praise for ‘Cocaine Nights’:

‘Britain’s number one living novelist. This adds a glinting new facet to his achievement – Ballard, detective-novelist extraordinary.’ Sunday Times

Praise for ‘The Complete Short Stories’:

‘Compelling…one of the most haunting, cogent and individual imaginations in contemporary literature.’ William Boyd, Mail on Sunday

Esquire – Sept 2003
"Ballard, acutely fierce as ever, detonates a bomb under Middle England in his continuing attempt to shock the middle classes out of complacency and into violent struggle"

Bookseller – 20 June 03
"[Ballard's] work has lost none of its power to disturb. Millennium People dissects a society without purpose, in which a population is numbed by an infantilising culture and invigorated only by the appeal of violence…"

Daily Telegraph – 23 August 2003
"…a horribly riveting work from a writer of rare imaginative largesse, a bearer of bad tidings unforgettably told."

Literary Review – Sept 2003
"Once again Ballard offers a masterly portrayal of a society coming apart at its civilised seams. And his text shimmers with the totems of modernity… There's still no disputing that Ballard is one of the most intelligent, important and thought-provoking writers this country has to offer. He tackles the modern human condition like no other writer. It is only a matter of time before Ballardian enters the English language."

TLS – 5 September 2003
"One of the novel's most successful aspects is the plausibility with which Ballard sketches the possible crossovers between political motivation and motiveless sociopathy, and Markham's attempts to resolve both the situation and his own mind are also rendered with a convincing giddy energy, as the plot moves to an inevitably violent conclusion."

The Independent – 6 September 2003 (article entitled 'Dystopian Rhapsody')
"Millennium People is a Thames-side thriller which opens with a bomb that explodes at Heathrow…The attack on Terminal 2 turns out to be the work, not of Islamic terrorists, but of British professionals… Britain's middle-classes are the 'new proletariat'…
Few writers find poetry in burning Heathrow freight offices and car-rental depots: Ballard can…. Ballard is a moralist apparently troubled by the shape of things to come and a literary saboteur of unswerving fierceness… Millennium People will compete with the best of contemporary British fiction."

Evening Standard – 1 September 2003
"Reading it is like having all the planks that underpin your life removed one by one and being forced to confront the brutality and emptiness that lies below"

Guardian (Magazine) – 6 September 2003
"Millennium People is a wonderful miasma of Ballard land."

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer VINE VOICE on 8 July 2004
Format: Paperback
There isnt really an appropriate way to begin this review other than to say that this is, for me, Ballard's best and that he has clearly only improved with age. Millennium People could not be more typical Ballard from the outset: Urban setting, usual themes, dystopian vision etc. but he has excelled himself by sticking to his strengths and improving on them.
Characters in Millennium People are far more sophisticated than a Ballard reader might expect. From the mysterious Richard Gould to the fiery Kay Churchill this improvement in characterisation helps convey the many messages in the story. What Messages? Well as usual, themes are around society, psychology, philosophy and politics, but instead of being deduced from the outcomes of the plot (as you might with say, High Rise), the morals come directly from the characters mouth and being the ever naive and passive David Markham, you get to hear everyone's side of the story.
The development around middle-class society, violence and even the meaning of life is very well handled and kept interesting and relevant with a twisting, mystery plot to which you're always trying to guess the ending whilst grappling with the challenging questions the characters ask of you and Markham.
To summarise, this is exciting, accesible, thoughful, sophisticated, interesting and enjoyable. It has the feel of an author reaching perfection with the complexity of The Atrocity Exhibition combined the atmosphere of High Rise...
...and to top all of that, this edition from the nice people at Harper-Perennial comes with a lovely jacket and an interview thingy at the end so read it and enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
The hallmarks of Ballard's speculative fiction surface again here: airport locations, chronically unfaithful wives, messianic figures, civil unrest and alienation. And above all the desire for violent catharsis and the alchemical transformation into a more authentic level of meaning. In his early science fiction this was by means of natural forces. In 'Crash' there is again the overwhelming urge to destruction via technology. Here it is by social forces - dissatisfaction, uprising and revolution.
The intriguing feature of this novel though is that the uprising is by the comfortable middle classes who appear to have everything they need. And here is the rub - this security and comfort is possibly a fiction , an illusion to keep the status quo of a controlling society. The 'chains' here are not tied by others, the rules are not imposed from without; the imprisonment of the middle class is entirely of its own making. In 'Millenium People' it is never made entirely clear what is wanted to replace things after the revolution; we just have rebellion for its own sake. The middle classes have comforts in abundance so what is lacking? Are they being hoodwinked into conformity and passivity? Is their obsession with rules a symptom of masked fear and insecurity? Whatever, Ballard certainly invites the reader to ask these sort of questions and to take a look at current social phenomena from a different perspective. The writing here is disquieting - cosy views are being challenged.
In the novel, random and meaningless acts of violence can be interpreted as attempts to kick back against a stultifying and deterministic universe. Perhaps there is a deep resentment of too much safety, security and comfort.
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Format: Hardcover
The publication of a Ballard novel has become as familiar an event as Wimbledon, the Cheltenham Gold Cup or a terrorist bomb. And I think Ballard would like that. This story begins with an explosion at Heathrow Airport which kills the ex-wife of psychologist David Markham and in light of the attacks which have recently taken place in Madrid and the expected atrocity Britain is waiting for, this book attains a rare level of importance. The events described herein cast a shadow from the near future which falls on our tube stations, bus lanes and shopping malls.
The initial twist in 'Millennium People' is that the Heathrow bomb plunges Markham into a world of middle class revolutionaries and agitators who may or may not have planted the device. Markham allows himself to be sucked into the front line of all manner of protests as he seeks to penetrate this new class of anarchist, where a simple argument over double yellow lines in Chelsea is inflated into a man the barricades issue.
There were two moments of extreme bravery in the novel when Ballard touches upon the Hungerford massacre when a man named Michael Ryan went crazy in the town with an AK-47 and also the murder of tv presenter Jill Dando. When I read these sections of the book, everything seemed to be in slow motion, as if I was reliving the original news reports of those real-life tragedies. When a writer does that to you, the importance of the novel is beyond doubt.
If you like this book I would recommend any other Ballard novel - especially 'Super Cannes' and 'High Rise' which both demonstrate the collapse of middle-class loyalties to the establishment.
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Format: Hardcover
JG Ballard has a lot of fun with his Observer-worshipping, Volvo driving, Tuscany-holidaying readership by choosing these totems of middle-class 21st century life as the basis for a revolution. His psychologically "injured" characters manage to blow up the Tate Modern, Heathrow T2, and the local Blockbusters, whilst trying to overrun Auntie Beeb. The protagonist, a psychiatrist, treads a thin line between trying to understand the revolutionaries and joining their struggle. There's even a bit of the calliper-based car fetish last seen in Crash, but this time involving a dead paedeatrician in a Saab.
Despite the absurdity of civil unrest in Chelsea, the novel raises some thought-provoking points about a paranoid, over-worked, and spiritually redundant UK society. Overall I enjoyed reading The Millenium People, although I was left feeling slightly annoyed by the Range-Rover-driving characters and I wished a few more of them had been victims of their own bombs.
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