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The Crystal World (The Elemental Apocalypse Quartet #4)

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  1,877 ratings  ·  102 reviews
J. G. Ballard’s fourth novel, which established his reputation as a writer of extraordinary talent and imaginative powers, tells the story of a physician specializing in the treatment of leprosy who is invited to a small outpost in the interior of Africa. Finding the roadways blocked, he takes to the river, and embarks on a frightening journey through a strange petrified f
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 4th 2008 by Flamingo Modern Classics (first published 1966)
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mark monday
a physician in africa; a world of disease. decay takes strange shape! a move into the unknown; the inexplicable finds its form and renovates, reconfigures: a new, dead life! figures in a landscape become one with that landscape... stylized characters form a comic tableau, fighting and fucking and dying, always dying... a journey up-river into the heart of an exterminating whiteness... leprosy and crystallization, two sides of one coin. this cartoon world ends - not with a bang - but with stasis; ...more
Ballard novel: subject, end time. Crystal, metaphor. Verbs? Inappropriateness. Nouns, exclusivity. Technique: problems. Action-omission. Review: inanity, boredom. Book: impossibility. Author-choices, comprehension. Ballard: uniqueness, praise.

OULIPO? Disagreement.

LSD? Certainty.
JG Ballard’s The Crystal World is a mindbending book that, by the last page, I was glad to end.

The premise is fascinating; out of nowhere jungles across the globe begin to crystallize. The crystallization slowly spreads, enveloping everything in its path, including animals, buildings, and people. Ballard is enamored with describing the silent, alien landscape inherent in the crystal zone, definitely to the point where the jungle becomes a character and possibly to the point of overkill. The nov
Oct 12, 2007 Spacemummy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rocky rococo
I found a fossilized chiffon cake in a cave. Ballard popped out of it and I fired at him with my shotgun, setting off a storm of falling stalactites. The sound of them exploding against the cave floor was deafening, but that's not what stunned me. It was the efflorescence of the fractured crystals releasing trapped light and time. I wondered if this was all a metaphor for wanting to fuck one of my literary heroes.

"You know, overall, you're not really that great of a writer."

"Yes," he said, "Bu
Ballard achieves a kind of psychedelic realism in this novel - although at times it did get a bit too action-adventurey for my liking. What really stuck with me was the image of the vitrifying forest itself; with its crystal river, kaleidoscopic trees, and jewelled crocodiles, the mysterious Suzanne with her 'leonine mask' of leprosy...horrible and beautiful, and written in a kind of hypnotic, trance-like language which makes the plot itself seem less significant.
Probably the best of the Ballard "elemental apocalypse" quartet (or it ties with The Drowned World at least). Once again, it's Ballard taking apart Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and reassembling it as a post-modern tale of apocalypse and humanity's failings - a journey up river through an African jungle slowly being encroached on, and transformed into, crystal. Time itself is the cause - like a dissolved material reaching maximum load in a solution, it begins to precipitate out into spacetim ...more
Mark McGinty

This is an interesting piece of literature, not quite a fantasy story, but not quite within the bounds of reality. The characters are normal people, the setting is a small town with nothing special about it, except that it is beside a jungle where jewels grow out of the ground like weeds, and as a tumor, overtake anyone or anything in their way. If you can find your way out, before becoming a frozen statue of gems, the crystals melt away as you cross an invisible threshold. It's mesm
Aaron Wickstrom
The Crystal World made me feel uncomfortable, in ways both good and not so good. On the good side, the constant repetition of the same descriptions and words (jeweled, deliquescing, glittering, etc.) added to my understanding of the crystallization process by creating a kind of textual parallel: images and metaphors, like the reduplicating crystallizing objects, jut out of the text without any noticeable purpose but to better draw a landscape that is difficult to "see." Ah, but not really, see. ...more
The story got off to a slowish start as, with most JG Ballard stories, you do need to focus on his writing style. As I got into it,I got much more involved with the plot, basically a Doctor, in Africa, travels up-river to find his friends. He discovers that the forest and area where he wishes to go is being transformed, the vegetation, even the people, into crystal. It's an interesting journey, as he becomes involved with other peoples' stories and tries to stay alive. It's worth reading if you' ...more
I've been a long-time fan of J.G. Ballard, but this isn't his best book. There are only so many ways you can describe a crystalline forest. To his credit, Ballard tries all of them, but there's a certain repetitiveness to the writing that starts to grate after a while. So I look to the characters and the action for brilliance. Ballard has never been a character-centered writer-- his talent lies in his ability to render a bizarre world. It's not a horrid book, but it would have been far better as ...more
One of Ballard’s armageddon pieces. In his three previous books (The Drowning World, The Drought (also called The Burning World), and The Wind from Nowhere) destruction comes from natural disasters. In the Crystal World, destruction comes under the guise of beauty — and few seem able to resist. But more than a dire warning about the disasters we’re calling down on our own heads, this is also a meditation on the price of immortality. To gain eternal existence we lose our movement through time.
Niall Whyte
It's an eery world that J G Ballard shows us in this book. There is always the threat of the crystallization of the world advancing in the background, against which the main characters fight.

A lot of mental images have stayed with me after reading this. Well worth a look.
I wasn't as blown away by this as I expected to be and weirdly, I'm developing this idea that it's just a metaphor for really good weed, which I can dig.

Appreciated the partially palindromic conclusion, though I suppose even this felt a little hollow.

Amy Talluto
Jul 17, 2007 Amy Talluto rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Beautiful imagery and a good idea...but the characters are shallow and the plot is slow-paced. It was written in the 50's...but excuse.
Julian Meynell
I find it a bit surprising that I like Ballard's SF quite so much. I have previously read the Drowned World and this is basically the same book,, but with heat and water replaced by crystals.

The book, like the Drowned World, draws directly from Heart of Darkness. It is a kind of phantasmagoria Heart of Darkness. Set in the jungles of Cameroon the jungle is crystallizing into jewels. The people are drawn to the jungle and the main character a doctor who treats leprosy wander through the Jungle wi
Kate Sherrod
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dr. Sanders, an expert in leprosy, has arrived at Port Matarre on a steamship along with Father Balthus, a refugee from a Graham Greene novel, and Ventress a...mysterious man who likes to hide guns in other people's luggage, gambling on the idea that, well, the police in an African port town aren't going to risk rifling through a leper doctor's belongings.

The natives...are that way.

Sanders hasn't arrived to cure lepers, though.

He's arrived because of a mysterious letter sen
Trippy Science fict/fan. 1966 Post apocalyptic


JG Ballard is an amazing writer with an amazing life story. He wrote "The Empire of the Sun" as a semi autobiographical story about growing up in the internment camps in WWII Japan. It was made into a great movie, where Christian Bale, as a child, played the author.

The Observer calls this book, aptly, "A haunting picture of diseased beauty,......."

West African jungle starts to crystallize

man vs.himself

Peter Herrmann
I think he dropped the ball with what could have been a great idea: transformation. Style unique, interesting. Imagery: amazing and will be remembered by me for ever. Action: to the extent that there ever really was any, was frenetic, happening in sort of a fog. Dialog could be annoying at times in that people would start to speak a sentence and the other party would cut him off (anticipating him, but the reader could not anticipate), and yet the response often gave no clue to what the initial s ...more
اول این که حق اش دو و نیم ستاره بیشتر نیست ولی خب اینجا امکانش نیست!
دوم این که نمی دانم چرا انگلیسی زبان ها خصوصا آمریکایی ها وقتی وارد دنیای توصیف و فانتزی و استعاره می شوند هرگز دلنشینی و توان مندی فرانسوی زبان ها یا حتی استرالیایی ها را که انگلیسی زبان هستند ندارند.
این ناتوانی در ترجمه ها هم مشهود است و بر نثر ترجمه شده هم ظاهر می شود.
کتاب پر از وصف و توصیف است که هرگز به گرد پای بالزاک، رومن گاری، لوکلزیو یا حتی امانوئل اشمیت نمی رسد.
محتوا و منظور کتاب که همان توجه به محیط زیست و نابودی جه
Sarah Kelsey
This is a sci-fi take on Conrad's _Heart of Darkness_. I remember this book's theme and the gradual crystalization of the living things, a sort of leprosy of inertia. It was quite an interesting idea.
As I recall, we read this in my UW Sci-fi class.
Nov 22, 2014 Sarah marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
I only got 50 pages into this.

Fascinating premise, but something about Ballard's prose isn't…good. You know, like, there's nothing wrong with the paragraph per se…I just don't think a human wrote it. I think J.G. Ballard was a chatbot.
Wael Mahmoud
I could enjoy this book more when i was younger, thriller and suspense in science fiction novel is a perfect teen and youth mood. There's no significant literature importance in the novel and the language was dryish and lack any beauty.
Matt Piechocinski
If you cross Albert Camus with any noir type of writer, I really think you have this book. I'm sure Ballard was writing to some psychological level that I just didn't understand.
Dan Brian
One of those haunting novels laced more with strange images than a plot. It lies somewhere between "Bring Out The Dead" and "Into The Heart of Darkness"
Sigrun Hodne
I came to this novel after first having seen Ann Lislegaards beautiful work: Crystal World (after J.G.Ballard)
2006 (a 2-channel 3D animation, presented on two leaning screens)

Crystal World (after J. G. Ballard) is a double channel projection first shown at the Sao Paulo Biennial 2006. In the 3D animation a universe is constructed with architectural structures and a jungle that slowly crystallize. A text, generated from a letter written by the protagonist in J.G. Ballard’s novel The Crystal Worl
Dara Salley
I read this thrilling little book in two days! Some of that speed was due to insomnia, but most of it was due to how engrossing it was. The book starts with the arrival of Edward Sanders in Africa. The narrative drips with mystery from the beginning. The initial impressions of Sanders describe the unusual play of light on the coast, the trees are dark and shadowy even under full sunlight. The doctor has some mysteries of his own as well.

The star of this novel is the petrified forest. There are a
Diana Welsch
I picked up this book because I read an in which its prose was described as "like a hypodermic needle hovering over my eyeball."

With praise like that, how could I not read it? I'm a sucker for uncomfortable books, and I wanted to know what that felt like.

I didn't really feel that intensely about it. But I enjoyed it enough to keep reading Ballard to try to find out.

The Crystal really was an interesting enough book. The premise really drew me in. Dr. Sanders, a medical doctor who works at a lepr
L'un des premiers romans de Ballard (son quatrième en fait) qui clôt son projet d'écriture mettant en scène une fin du monde par élément (quatre en tout, donc).

Paru en 1966, La forêt de cristal représente la version minérale de ces fins du monde, les trois autres éléments ayant déjà été traitées dans : Le vent de nulle part (l'air) et Le monde englouti (l'eau) en 1962 ainsi que dans Sécheresse (le feu) en 1964.

Le récit se situe en Afrique, dans les jungles du Cameroun, jungles qui, pour des rai
"This novel is one of the newer novels by Ballard after he stopped writing dystopian fiction. To this day, I haven't read any of Ballard's dystopian novels but I really want to. From what I know, there are three novels that are dystopian. This novel however is the first novel right after ""The Burning World"" or also known as ""The Drought"" - a novel in which the world is a barren desert per say Mad Max or the Road Warrior - and water is very scarce. Like all of Ballard's novels, there is an un ...more
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J.G. Ballard: The Crystal World 19 43 Feb 02, 2013 08:36AM  
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James Graham "J. G." Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Ballard came to be associated with the New Wave of science fiction early in his career with apocalyptic (or post-apocalyptic) novels such as The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964), and The Crystal World (1966). In the late 1960s and early 1970s Ballard focused on a ...more
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