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on 2 October 2017
Very good condition for a penny and an interesting read. Typical Ballard observation of modern society framing a who dunnit
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on 14 December 2009
Bad Ballard is better than good [insert name of any 2nd rate modern dystopian novelist], but the fact remains that this is a bad Ballard novel. If you're a fan it's worth reading for the flawless prose, but I'd hate to think newcomers to Ballard would start here and leave with the wrong impression. This book follows similar themes to the preceding three (Cocaine Nights, SuperCannes, Millenium People), but here credulity is stretched just a little too far, and in the absence of strong supporting characters the plot just caves in on itself. The main protagonist, Richard Pearson doesn't convince, but even less convincing are his interactions with the secondary characters (doctor, lawyer, police sergeant, psychiatrist - standard Ballardian middle-class pillars of the community). Within seconds of meeting, poor Richard is being whisked off to crime scenes, philosophised at, flirted with, and generally tossed around from scene to scene so quickly I began to feel giddy. Easy intimacy between characters who have barely met is a Ballardian trademark, but it's difficult to bring this off in a way that convinces and here he fails. Two stars for the prose and one for the consumerism/fascism theme.
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on 17 May 2013
I don't disagree with the many low raters pronouncements that 'its no cocaine nights or super-cannes' -- yeah ok it isn't... but its got its own intangible, occult, uber-surrey edge to it. I loved it.

For me this is a very fitting final Ballard.

He takes the home counties dark heart out of the chest and holds it up to the face - he gives us one last good look at how contaminated with necrotic decay we are before expiring. He is a hero and a prophet. RIP
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on 6 July 2016
As pointed out by many other reviewers, J.G. Ballard’s final work of fiction is not his best, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of your attention.

A fever dream of Middle England in all its sour glory, Kingdom Come tells the story of Richard Pearson – an ex-advertising executive with some unpopular ideas about how to keep consumer society consuming – who heads to the M25 satellite town of Brooklands to bury his estranged father, the recent victim of a shooting spree at the local shopping mall and a man surrounded by secrets. Pearson is a familiar archetype in Ballard’s work – the upper middle class professional, cut adrift from the insular reality of central London while viewing his fellow human beings with the cold detachment of a man conducting a science experiment or an autopsy – but is different in this incarnation due to a more evident sense of humour.

Other familiar cast members are here, the fragile but resilient love interest (Dr Julia Goodwin), the suspect and inscrutable authority figures (Fairfax the lawyer, Falconer and Leighton the police top brass), the puppet demagogue (David Cruise, the messianic daytime TV presenter), the psychiatrist pulling the strings (Tony Maxted) and the man alternately at the centre of the Metro Centre’s tragedy and determinedly at its peripheries, mentally unstable assassin Duncan Christie.

Ostensibly a whodunit, the central theme of Kingdom Come is the willing manipulation of a population bored with their lives, with an aggressive and addictive consumer culture as the new fascism. That he achieves this most notably through a series of TV broadcasts featuring the apparent disintegration of a perma-tanned cable channel pundit (Cruise) is equally familiar and depressing in our current landscape, capturing the tabloid zeitgeist of simultaneously deifying and destroying public figures. Pearson, while affable enough on the surface, treats the world around him in much the same way as a schoolboy with a sharp stick or some lighter fluid and a box of matches treats a nest of ants. He daydreams of a Britain revitalised by brand loyalty and flag-waving sports team militias and – talented dream-spinner that he is – manages to add oxygen to the embers of xenophobia and barely-restrained violence smouldering in the suburbs with little effort, unchecked by either conscience or authorities involved in social experiments of their own. He is a lost man making sure that everyone else gets lost with him, alternately fuelling and being appalled by the growing racist attacks within the M25 townships and ultimately divorced from the consequences of his actions.

The final segment of the novel feels like a return to the territory set out in High Rise and Empire of the Sun, but anyone who enjoys Ballard’s work will know that he spent his career endlessly refining the same obsessions. Trapped in the Metro Mall – initially as willing devotees and later as prisoners – its denizens revert to almost prehistoric behaviours, forming tribes and starting to worship the unusable stacks of consumer goods that surround them. Part of Ballard’s appeal is his pitch-black humour, played out here as yet another warning against following our instincts – or, perhaps, the instincts of others more forceful or sociopathic than ourselves for which we’re happy to settle – to an end that’s either logical or insane depending on your perspective.

Anybody doubting Ballard’s prescience needs only look to the recent spate of racist and xenophobic attacks across the U.K. (depending on when you’re reading this, that nation may no longer exist) for proof. The Far Right seems to have been emboldened by the exit from the E.U. and it’s scary to think of where this might all end up: not so much because of that exit in itself, worrying though that is, but because of how the fires of intolerance and violence seem to have been and will likely continue to be stoked. Genuinely, no movie adaptation of Kingdom Come is required: just stay tuned to the news…

It’s a shame that Ballard is no longer around to document our self-inflicted decline, but as a literary send-off Kingdom Come shows that he always knew which way the wind was blowing.
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on 24 May 2007
J.G Ballard's new novel Kingdom Come is set in an ultra-modern shopping centre where the consumerist dream of ideal homes and endless sporting events has reached their inevitable apotheosis as a new form of fascism. The shopping centre in question is the fictional Metro-Centre located off the M25, but Kingdom Come could so easily read as an admonitory tale implying a retail dystopia which is very real and somewhat closer to home.

J.G Ballard is the writer of Crash and Empire of the Sun, both of which have been filmed by the `Bergs' (that's Speil and Cronen) and has been described as the `Seer of Sheperton', an `autobahn prophet' and our `greatest living author'. In his 1968 novel The Atrocity Exhibition he predicted that Ronald Reagan would become president of America a good thirteen years before said governor of California achieved assassination status. Certainly no other writer seems to have his finger as firmly on the pulse of the 20/21st century's psycho-sociological state of play.

But with Kingdom Come Ballard appears to be writing the same book as if caught in a time glitch from one of his short stories of the 1950's. His last four novels have all been set within high-concept living environments where the attainment of a perfect life loses out to an inherent will to violence. In the fourth of what I'd call the `modern life is rubbish' "quadrilogy" (Thank you 20th Century Fox) Cocaine Nights, Super Cannes, Millennium People and now Kingdom Come all begin with a seemingly meaningless murder in a perfect enclosed society with an outsider arriving to solve the mystery which turns out to be no real mystery at all because it's always a barely concealed conspiracy involving all the residents; and it's not Ballard's first exploration of ideal living environments which, in `Ballard world', inevitably degenerate into chaos; High Rise was written during his `golden period' in the early 70's, as a reaction to the explosion of tower blocks which threatened to be the de rigor living experience of the future.

This said, even when Ballard doesn't appear to be trying he still urinates from a great height on the likes of your Iain Banks' and Alex Garland's. Which I suppose goes some way to illustrating that the great are only great when they have to be. But Kingdom Come is recommended reading for residents of `designer towns' like Milton Keynes (U.K) and Celebration (U.S) who yearn for meaning in increasingly meaningless times.

Adrian Stranik
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on 6 December 2007
To say that this is disappointing would be a massive understatement!
You realize that something's wrong early on, when the first-person narrator, an advertising executive, has to voice the critique of consumerism that lies at the novel's core. THAT clearly isn't going to work.
After that it's all downhill. The plot, setting and characters are laughably banal. The whole thing creaks. I can't believe that it would've been published if it wasn't by Ballard. I can only suppose that Fourth Estate hoped that it would get by on the name. Well it doesn't.
It raises big questions about broadsheet reviewing. I bought it on impulse because the quoted reviews, while not ecstatic, were still appreciative. It's even a Book of the Year for the Spectator reviewer! Something's not right there.
'Buyer Beware' I guess -- but I wish I could get my money back.
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on 28 June 2013
I can understand many of the comments here, especially having just finished Super-Cannes, which is written much more skillfully. However, Kingdom Come is still a book of compelling ideas that speculates and extrapolates about where the trends of consumer culture will lead us.
If you are a fan of Ballard, it's well worth reading. The recurring ideas of his late fiction are here, and the text is eerily relevant, especially given the Turkey protests and the supermarket-construction that instigated them.
As for the negative comments about the plot, construction and style - they are not unfounded. Some of the ideas are brought forward in an irritating fashion at times, where Ballard "tells", rather than "shows" his more philosophical points, lacking some of the craft he has shown previously. I'm not so easily swayed by the "bad plot" arguments, I don't think the novel intends to present you with a dazzling plot, rather it seeks to depict societal, psychological and cultural conditions and raise some questions about the present and future (a personal past & nightmarish history is also haunting Pearson's present).
All in all, not Ballard's best, but still a thought-provoking addition to his late fictions.
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on 27 November 2008
Weren't those reviewers a bit stingy? I can understand that this is not Crash, or Empire of the Sun, or The Kindness of Women, or the Drowned World... yet, I can't see why the score is so low. It is--like everything written by Ballard--a provocative surrealist story. You can't read it as a realistic novel, and you can't even read it as a story with a realistic starting point which becomes science-fictional in the end... it's surrealistic right from the start, not in the vein of Magritte or Dali, but in the tradition of Luis Bunuel. Everything seems normal, but there are strange things happening everywhere. All in all, Ballard doesn't give a damn about sociological verisimilitude: he grabs whatever ideas, facts, figures, places may fire his imagination, and then builds a sociological nightmare. If you're looking for a sociological survey, well, this is the wrong place to come. Ballard delivers surrealist fiction, disguised as a crime novel. With a great finale, one should add...
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on 16 August 2007
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.
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on 21 June 2008
Whilst it probably wasn't the best to read this as my first introduction to Ballard I still felt extremely disappointed after hearing so many good things about him.

The "consumerism as a dystopia" is a grand and important theme and the first part contains many self-contained mini-essays delivered by the various characters on this subject that are well written and thought out. The deep problem is that it should have stayed as a non-fiction essay on where our consumerist lifestyles are leading to. To hang all the ideas onto a weak, stupid plot with minimal characterisation just spoils the message...(and I still don't understand Richard's motivations to move from hunting his father's killer to helping out the Metrocentre and his extremely slow understanding of the link to fascism that we the reader can spot in the early pages.)

Anyway so we have Richard the protagonist speaking to each minor player; a lot of philosophising from them; Richard's own reflections; and then a tiny bit of action to move the plot forward. Repeat several times. And then in the second part go into standard Hollywood-style dystopian madness which we've already seen in countless movies. Sorry...but this is seriously, seriously unoriginal stuff by the end.

So two stars for making a well-written and argued meditation on consumerism/fascism/madness etc...but really, don't bother with this one if you're new to Ballard like I was...try his earlier work first.
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