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Thread: JG Ballard

  1. #1

    JG Ballard

    How are his novels? I hear he was a sci-fi writer, part of the 'New Wave'. I'v never seen his books of the sci-fi section of the bookstore though. They're always in the Fiction & Literature section. And i can kinda see why, he's not like other sci-fi/fantasy writers of his time, he seems much more literary from what i can tell.

    The books i bought are 'The Drowned World', 'The Atrocity Exhibition', and 'Kingdom Come'. I have not read them yet but will very soon. In the meantime i'd like to hear what others here think of them. How are they?

    And i wouldn't mind hearing what other authors you would compare him to.

  2. #2
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    I think Crash is the only one I've read, years ago. It was certainly memorable, and I keep meaning to read some more.

    According to Wikipedia, one publisher's reader said "This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!" when they read it. The first part may well be true.

  3. #3
    Orthodox Herbertian Omphalos's Avatar
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    Personally I like his books. The early catastrophe novels are about emotionally damaged characters who accept the new landscapes that their worlds turn into, which generally amounts to accepting a harsh and painful death, so if you can deal with that, you may enjoy them.

    His later books, like Crash, are more about the destructive nature of western culture. Though that only really occurred to me a few weeks after reading one of them.

    The Atrocity Exhibition is a novel in the way that William S. Burroughs' books are novels, though one short story in it has the best title in all of SF (though, that one is not really SF. Whatever). Ill let you figure out which one.

    My recommendation is to start with his earlier books first and read them in publishing order. He seemed to me to have more of a suicidal bent in those earlier books (some say it's because he lost his wife/family so early in his career) which makes them rawer, IMHO, and in the later books he somewhat mellows out a bit, but the imagery not as dense in the earlier books - to me at least - and reading them in order helped me understand where he was going as his career developed.

    PS -> Don't look for happy endings.

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    Ballard is my favourite writer.

    He's not really like anyone else, which is part of the appeal. People with whom he shares a similar sort of outlook (?), perhaps, might be Burroughs, De Lillo and Houellebecq... none of whom, in my opinion, come close to being as satisfying to read. The writer that comes closest is Iain Sinclair; he has a whole different set of obsessions... but the tenor of their writing is similar.

    His early short stories are very like Ray Bradbury's writing, I think he was still finding his own voice at the time and seemed to be more or less mimicking Bradbury's style. In the early sixties he comes into his own - the three disaster novels, of which The Drowned World is the first, are incredible. I would definitely start with that. The Atrocity Exhibition is really a very experimental novel and probably something to read later (having first read Crash, High Rise, Concrete Island etc... or perhaps some of the stories written in the early 70's) - while it comes before those works, they deal with a lot of the same themes in a less challenging way (still pretty challenging!) and so I think you probably get more out of The Atrocity Exhibition coming at it retroactively, so-to-speak.

    His short stories generally are just amazing - the collections Myths of the Near Future and Memories of the Space Age, both published in the 80's, are my favourites. I'd recommend starting with the three disaster novels and Book 2 of the Collected Stories; the later novels are interesting but less viscerally pleasing (as well as being a little stylistically dull) - basically, I think the period from The Drowned World(62) up to The Unlimited Dream Company (79) contains the best of his long form writing.

  5. #5
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MMerle View Post
    His early short stories are very like Ray Bradbury's writing, I think he was still finding his own voice at the time and seemed to be more or less mimicking Bradbury's style. In the early sixties he comes into his own - the three disaster novels, of which The Drowned World is the first, are incredible.
    I'd go with that - there is a touch of Ray Bradbury's 'psychological mysticism' about The Drowned World. I didn't find it a particularly entertaining read, although the atmosphere created in the setting was very good. I've also read Super Cannes, which is more along the lines of a slickly polished thriller.

  6. #6
    Agree with most of the comments above. Ballard is a not to everyone's taste, but definitely worth persevering. Really unique.

    Start with the early stuff:
    The Drowned World
    The Drought
    The Crystal World

    and, especially Vermilion Sands, which is a book of short stories about the inhabitants of the eponymous desert town, sort of like a faded Palm Springs.
    Unlimited Dream Company and Highrise are reasonably accessible, as are the later books such as Empire of the Sun (autobiographical war novel made into a Spielberg film), Super Cannes, and Cocaine Nights.
    Atrocity Exhibition and Crash are very good, but not easy, and they might put you off if you start at there. There are also several good collections of his short stories.

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    I just finished my first Ballard, The Wind from Nowhere. Utterly unsentimental and nihilistic. I enjoyed it as an early novel of a good writer, and ignored its glaring flaws for its entertaining send-up of hubris, both collective and individual. Fun stuff.

  8. #8
    Registered User Pennarin's Avatar
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    How do his three disaster novels - The Drowned World, The Drought, and The Crystal World - compare to each other?

  9. #9
    the puppet master ArthurFrayn's Avatar
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    I like Ballard without reservation. It's just about getting around to reading everything. Crash is the book that kind of defines what he is about, but he is an excellent writer, and finds an a lot of variance in the exploration of his themes. I recommend Concrete Island. Totally freaking nuts -sort of the story of the Robinson Crusoe of the underpass.

    Billennium and The Drowned Giant are great short stories by him.

  10. #10
    I just read about half of The Drowned World, and honestly, I found it kind of boring. There were some good things about it, but honestly, I couldn't really get into it. Which is disappointing, because i still have two more of his books to read, Atrocity Exhibition and Kingdom Come. But I will still try to read them.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by tylenol View Post
    I just read about half of The Drowned World, and honestly, I found it kind of boring. There were some good things about it, but honestly, I couldn't really get into it. Which is disappointing, because i still have two more of his books to read, Atrocity Exhibition and Kingdom Come. But I will still try to read them.
    If DW did not float your boat, then you may not get on with Atrocity Exhibition. What was it that you found boring?

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