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The Drought
J.G. Ballard
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The Drought (The Elemental Apocalypse Quartet #3)

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  999 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Weird and mesmerizingly grotesque, The Drought tells the chilling story of the world on the brink of extinction, where a global drought, brought on by industrial waste, has left mankind in a life-or-death search for water. Violence erupts and insanity reigns as the human race struggles for survival in a worldwide desert of despair.
Published March 5th 2012 by Liveright (first published 1964)
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Nate D
Jun 14, 2012 Nate D rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pool herders of the salt channels
Recommended to Nate D by: a fish traced in dust
As Maya noted when she was reading this, there's a certain stodginess about the style, a certain pre-modern feeling at odds with the novel's future disaster premise, but as Will Self notes in his afterword, it's hard for that to really slow things up too much when the story is so full of mirage-wavered portents and apocalyptic tableaus. The strangest aspect, though, is not that tension, but the general ellipticness of and hazyness of the storytelling, the characters are inscrutable gamepieces, t ...more
Channel your interior Robbie Krieger and prepare for pondering The End. No. I don’t mean David Beckham’s retirement, but rather closing time, like permanently. One of my criticisms of The Road was its attempt to capture the After with an almost biblical gravity of language. J.G. Ballard appears too savvy for those traps. His exploration is empty. Life is vast and bleak. It isn’t going to rain anymore. We’re sure as hell Doomed, done for. Experiences don’t amount to much anymore. I wouldn’t waste ...more
As noted in the review for The Drowned World, another part of the quartet of Ballard's "Elemental Apocalypse" - formerly titled THE BURNING WORLD, this describes a future in which water has grown scarce (yet another possibility for our future, sadly). IIRC, it starts out with the realization of what's going on just beginning to grip the populace of a British suburb, and then at mid-book jumps ahead a number of years to the dessicated, blasted future where rag-tag groups skate across vast salt pl ...more
Kate Sherrod
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Williamson
There are serious moments you think this book is really going to kick into gear and then doesn't. Aspects of the book are unclear and at times I wasn't sure what was going on. It is not the easiest or flowing of books, and it is rather unengaging. However, ...

The use of language with regards to time is very good, as the drought is in its first couple of months at the beginning of the book, society rapidly deteriorates, creating a suspended sensation of time, it is merely weeks after the drought
Ballard likes to put normal people in times of crisis and destruction, so as to explore their limits, their morals, often their humanity. I haven't read many of his earlier works, but it seems to me that while in this one the crisis is more obvious than in some of his later novels, Ballard still manages to come up with an exciting read.

The best element of "The Drought" is not the plot, which is interesting but ultimately fails to come together completely. For me it was the prose, especially pera
At first look, The Drought would seem to be a simple transposition of Ballard’s previous novel, The Drowned World. Given that plots and conceits can often just be skeletons for Ballard to hang his singular language and obsessions atop, this didn’t seem an unlikely supposition. And there is great similarity between the two novels (as there is with most Ballard). However, what surprised me was how often The Drought resembles a Ballardian crack at the Southern Gothic novel.

The setting of a small ri
Corey Ryan
The last Ballard I read was "The Unlimited Dream Company." That book was amazing. This book was ok-pale in comparison to that.
Ballard's prose is nothing special. His sentence structures never attracted me to his writing and honestly, sometimes his use of similes becomes quite annoying (especially when too many end the paragraphs). What attracts me to his books are simply his stories. The oddness of the way environments can make us behave or the way the environments appear to react to our existe
This book feels very contemporary or timeless given that it was written in 1964. If you are looking for a psychological post-apocalyptic read - this is your book.
James Perkins
Dr Charles Ransom lives on a houseboat on a rapidly receding river, victim of a worldwide drought, caused by pollution that has covered the Earh's oceans with a thin film, preventing almost all natural evaporation. So there is no rain, no new water, and people are only too aware that what they have left won't be there for long. The story relates Ransom's attempts to deal with the rapidly diminishing water supplies. Starting with a group of mildly eccentric characters, the novel ends up as an abs ...more
Quite a different style compared to his later work (Cocaine Nights). He's more interested here in experimenting with the surrealism that catastrophe allows. There's not much of a plot, instead what we have is an ever expanding collection of the most bizarre, and yet carefully assembled, imagery upon the stage of the 'Apocalypse'. The lesson learnt? there is no 'end of the world' instead there is only the rise of a new, infinitely stranger and more dangerous world. Sometimes the kaleidoscope of v ...more
N.J. Ramsden
One of Ballard's early novels, and one of the 'catastrophic environmental' set, this is a bit of a bodged job, I'm afraid. The premise is interesting enough and Ballard elides what's necessary to elide in order to show that the premise is not really the thing to be interested in - so what's the book about? It's not about characters, that's for sure, and it's not even about the plot, which is superficial and fails to really develop in any way at all. So what's it about? It's not about the message ...more
Wendy Crittenden
Started out slow and got so awesome bizarre. My only complaint was the way it ended... I wish it was resolved better instead of the easy way out the author took. Such very strange and interesting characters.
Aaron Kent
way ahead of its time
Roddy Williams
I’m not clear if Ballard ever composed poetry, although I’m of the opinion that of he didn’t then he should have.
This is an expanded version of the original 1964 novel, ‘The Burning World’ and is one of a quartet of post-apocalyptic novels Ballard wrote early in his career, which may well have been based on the concept of the four alchemical elements. This is the fire section.
It’s not perfect by any means. Other reviewers have remarked that there is a surplus of characters. Of the males, those
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
...Like all purgatories, the beach was a waiting ground, the endless stretches of wet salt sucking away from them all but the hardest core of themselves. These tiny nodes of identity glimmered in the light of the limbo, the zone of nothingness that waited for them t0 dissolve and deliquesce like the crystals dried by the sun..."

"...The coastal hills now marked the edges of the desert that stretched in a continuous table across the continent, a waste-land of dust and ruined towns, but there was a
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Literary Relish
To tell you what the book is about would really be to insult your intelligence, I’m sure the title and the tap on the front cover gives a solid clue but I’ll tell you nonetheless… In a none too distant future the world as we know it is slowly turning to dust and all, unsurprisingly, due to mankind’s disregard for the planet. Increasing levels of industrial waste have slowly formed a large film over the world’s oceans, disrupting the precipitation cycle and leaving the world to die of thirst. The ...more
Baal Of
Oh but don't you understand that this apocalyptic tableau represents humanity's ceaseless struggle against its own repressed psycho-sexual longings, reflected in the eternal conflict of male vs. female vis-à-vis the phallic paddles attempting to control the last vestiges of the feminine water resources, enveloped by the pollution of capitalistic hegemony, trapped and removed, ultimately desired and lusted after but eternally disappearing, hated and repressed, never understood through the hazy dr ...more
A book to stop you leaving the tap run while cleaning your teeth. Imagine a world where it has stopped raining due to a polluting scum on the surface of the sea that prevents the evaporation part of the water cycle. An unlikely senario but go with it. The country (never revealed but they seem to speak English) gradually dessicates and there is a general emigration to the seaside where desalination plants give hope. A doctor (naturally - many literary heroes are doctors)remains as long as he is a ...more
This was my first Ballard and I have to say it was rather disappointing. It is, too, one of his first novels, so that might account for the disappointment. His prose is very hard to follow and his sentence structures were often awkward and incomprehensible without multiple reads. I thought the story was interesting and there were some promising characters but except for a few passages that seemed to flow with more easy, it was not too engaging and when it's it over you wonder what the point of i ...more
J.G. Ballard is the king of the "what if" scenario. Dr Ransom finds his life turned upside down and inside out when a drought devastates the lakeside town he lives in..... To remain in his houseboat on the shrinking lake or to join the thousands of refugees aiming for the desalination plants hastily placed along the coast.? As Ransom belatedly embarks on the trek to the coast little in his previous life can have prepared him for the challenges ahead.
Ballard's early life in Shanghai give him a u
John  Ashtone
The dystopian view of a world where fresh water is virtually none existent, is rather weird in this weather story from Ballard.

It was many years ago I read it and I shall have to revisit to jog my memory of its theme, hence the low 3 stars for Ballard with this one.
Tim C
I assume there's a pun on the main character's name - Dr Ransom, who lives on a houseboat - and Arthur Ransom of "Swallows and Amazons" fame? And even if not, it made me chuckle. The plot is as bleakly desolate and desultory as its subject matter. There are some lyrical passages and some striking imagery which will undoubtedly appeal to those fascinated by bleak dystopian visions of the future, but ultimately the storyline is threadbare thin and some images get tired in repetition (but this may ...more
My friend Jon lent this to me when I mentioned I liked dystopic fiction. I don't read much fiction, but a book about a world in which a drought has severely changed living conditions, written by a very under-appreciated science fiction author, has appeal. Interestingly, author J.G. Ballard wrote Crash: A Novel , on which David Cronenberg based the movie of the same name.
Ivan Castellucci
Mi spiace dare solo due stelle a Ballard, in quanto amo questo scrittore, ma fin'ora questo è il romanzo che meno mi ha convinto della quadrilogia post-apocalittica.
A tratti noioso.
Dystopian science fiction in which the characters degenerate wonderfully along with the environment and the consumer and political society.
Like The Drowned World this early Ballard novel is visiting through fiction the experience of a world turned upside down that is described in Empire of the Sun. Here a drought drives society out of the familiar. The cities become empty while the seashore becomes an encampment for the population, working to produce fresh water rather than finding food that was Ballard's boyhood experience in China.
Adam Wilson
The Drought by J. G. Ballard was one of those books that I read because of the brief description. I thought it sounded amazing but knew nothing about the author. Once I got about half-way through, I realized that I was only in it for the apocalyptic portion and didn’t care enough about any of the characters to wish rain upon them. It is a rather short novel (176 pages in the version I read) so it isn’t a major waste of time if you end up not liking it, and I’m not saying you won’t. I personally ...more
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J.G. Ballard: The Drought 3 16 Aug 10, 2013 04:01PM  
  • Some Will Not Die
  • Greybeard
  • After London: or, Wild England
  • The Apocalypse Reader
  • The Last Gasp
  • A Wrinkle in the Skin
  • The Genocides
  • When Worlds Collide (When Worlds Collide, #1)
  • Dark Universe
  • Greener Than You Think (Classics of Modern Science Fiction 10)
  • Aftermath (Supernova Alpha, #1)
  • The Purple Cloud (Frontiers of Imagination)
  • This Is the Way the World Ends
  • The World Ends in Hickory Hollow
  • Through Darkest America (Isaac Asimov Presents)
  • Dr. Bloodmoney
  • A Boy and His Dog & "Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman
  • The Long Tomorrow
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
More about J.G. Ballard...

Other Books in the Series

The Elemental Apocalypse Quartet (4 books)
  • The Wind from Nowhere
  • The Drowned World
  • The Crystal World
Crash Empire of the Sun High-Rise The Drowned World Concrete Island

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“Most known motives are so suspect these days that I doubt whether the hidden ones are any better. All the same,” 1 likes
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