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The Drowned World: A Novel (The Elemental Apocalypse Quartet #2)

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  5,338 ratings  ·  349 reviews
Appearing in hardcover in
America for the first time, this neglected Ballardian masterpiece promises to
be a touchstone for environmentalists the world over.First published in 1962, J.G.
Ballard’s mesmerizing and ferociously imaginative novel not only gained him
widespread critical acclaim but also established his reputation as one of the
finest writers of a generation. The Dro
Published July 23rd 2012 by Liveright (first published 1962)
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Dull plotting.

Duller psychology.

Shallow characters.

Improbable coincidences galore.

Pretty racist.

And yet almost entirely saved by some great descriptive work in painting the submerged world.

Worth reading, barely.

Bill  Kerwin

Although today J.G. Ballard is best known as the author of two books that became major films—Spielberg's Empire of the Sun and Cronenberg's Crash —he was first praised for a quaternity of post-apocalyptic novels published in the early '60's. The Drowned World (1962), the second book in this series—as well as Ballard's second published novel—was greatly admired by readers of speculative fiction and caused Ballard to be considered one of the great lights of the “New Wave.”

The Drowned World is ofte
Ben Babcock
What images do the words "science fiction" conjure in your mind? Do you think of spaceships, lasers, phasers, light-sabres? Rockets, robots, and radon gas? Green chicks and blue boxes? Science fiction is a genre built upon difference. Science fiction stories are essentially thought experiments in which the author asks what would happen if the world were different in one or many ways.

We often (rightly) associate science fiction with fantastic technologies, but that kind of mental picture is a rat
I am sitting here wondering if I made a mistake reading The Drowned World as my first J.G. Ballard novel. My edition includes the novel The Wind From Nowhere and I am tempted to read it as well before returning the book to the library but I have so many other books I desperately wish to finish, books I am truly enjoying. If this were not a library book and soon due, then I am afraid I may never have finished The Drowned World, which does not bode well for my reading of the second selection.

MJ Nicholls
The novel Ballard liked to pretend was his debut—The Wind from Nowhere, anyone?—depicts a world stuffed to the runnels with silt, salt water, silt and more silt. Rich in near pornographic descriptions of bogs, croc-filled lagoons and giant lizards, this is a tough and horrendous novel, all the more so knowing this fate awaits our grandchildren.

Because Ballard is always right. The flood is coming. Get your paddles, ladies. In the meantime, read this book. What is it? Hmm. Apart from the sumptuous
The problem with writing a racially-charged tale of madness and death, lost deep in an alien and antagonistic jungle is that you're going to draw comparisons to 'Heart of Darkness', and that's not a comparison from which most novelists are going to emerge unscathed. The white men lose themselves in the brutality of the primordial past, going 'native', or even beyond native, but Ballard does not have the unique voice or psychological insights of Conrad.

Ballard distinguishes himself as a competent
Dear Kerans, Here's an idea - go up to Hampstead. It'll be dry there and you can walk about.

The first couple of chapters of this book are quite intriguing, but as soon as you realise that this is central London and the buildings aren't even fully submerged, you know that the rest of Britain IS STILL THERE. So why is everyone acting like the world has been drowned? Didn't JG Ballard have the first notion of physical geography? DUH! Schoolboy error. When London drowns, you can say goodbye to East
J.G. Ballard, what an interesting author, they broke the mould when they made him. When I started reading sf in the 80s I had the impression that Ballard specializes in global ecological disaster scenario, what with The Drowned World, The Burning World, and The Crystal World. A sort of go-to guy for a “dot-dot-dot World” apocalyptic fiction. Then I read Concrete Island and Empire of the Sun and realized Ballard cannot be pigeonholed so simply.

The Drowned Worldis one of his earlier novels from hi
Nutshell: though global warming wins, cagey survivors succumb only to evopsychomachia.

Global warming is merely the Luca Brasi of a villainous sun, whose “sudden instability” “enlarged the Van Allen belts and diminished Earth’s gravitational hold upon the outer layers of the ionosphere” (33). Increased radiation dicked up the temperature, accelerated plant growth, and mutated the fuck outta everyone else (id.). The heat afflicted routine hydrologies, and now “the Middle West of the United States
The sun has gone mad. The ice has melted, and the continual flooding has covered much of the world with water. Temperatures have risen to the point where humanity has relocated to the Arctic and Antarctic circles just to survive. The result is that cities like London have become lagoons, surrounded by jungles and with only the top floors of the tallest buildings above water.

That's the setting of The Drowned World, and it's by far the best thing about the book. Ballard has quite a way with descri
Ballard's first 'official' novel, The Drowned World, still shows some signs of mastering his craft. Some odd characters and characterisations, and some odd pacing, take the edge off an otherwise excellent environmental dystopian future. It doesn't appear to be an anthropogenic disaster, but the icecaps have melted, the world has been flooded and burning sunlight is making life pretty hard for the survivors. The story revolves around a smallish cast of misfits, living around a lagoon above a floo ...more
Lou Robinson
I was a tad disappointed with The Drowned World, having read a couple of other Ballad works. But I should cut the author some slack, this was his first book. And I did like it, just didn't love it. The overall basis of the story, set in a future (although not too far in the future) globally warmed, flooded London, is an interesting one. Again Ballad has that knack of describing a situation that is the right side of believable, this could happen, and that makes it a disturbing read. But the Drown ...more
David Corvine
Interesting attempt to fictionalise Jungian psychology but my attention started to drift at about a hundred pages. In fact it would have been better as a novella length piece. The characterisation is weak and some of the stage direction-like descriptions didn't work and would have been unnecessary to the plot even if they had. I intend to go on and read The Drought and Crystal World as a trilogy. I find Ballard's work worth studying but flawed... I don't have a problem with that.
Second read by Ballard, this one came highly recommended, and yet again failed to engage. There is just a certain aloofness to Ballad's writing that does nothing to help the reader establish an emotional connection with the story. Martin Amis in his introduction mentions this, something along the lines of how Ballard appears to be bored with trappings of a conventional plot, except that coming from Amis it comes across as a praise and to me that's a major detractor. Ballard was certainly an able ...more
‘El mundo sumergido’, de J.G. Ballard, pertenece al Ciclo Terminal formado por cuatro novelas: ‘El mundo sumergido’ (donde el elemento catastrofista es el agua), ‘La sequía’ (fuego), ‘El mundo de cristal’ (tierra) y ‘Huracán cósmico’ (aire). Escritor new wave, Ballard deja la experimentación aparte y se centra en narrar una historia donde prima el pesimismo y la introspección, alejándose de los manidos clichés del subgénero de catástrofes, más dedicados a las aventuras.

En la presente novela, nos
Finished this last night. Mixed feelings about it really. I was intrigued by the premise, global warming leading to flooding and a gradual return to a Triassic Age, not that its a novel idea now, but because this was written before 'global warming' was a 'popular' concept. Also fascinated by the idea that this reversion in conditions to an earlier time would awake genetic memories of our ancestors within us.

Did the book work? The language did for me. It created a languid feel that mirrored the
Apr 08, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Publius Clodius Pulcher
Shelves: fiction

I liked the basic premise of The Drowned World: in 2145, a tiny handful of hardy souls is moored in a superheated, drowned city (which turns out to be London), surrounded by deep lagoons - they have to live near the tops of buildings because everything below is flooded, silt-covered, and seaweed-smeared - just finishing up some science things before returning to the Arctic Circle where the temperature is a more comfortable 85°. I liked most of the thick description. Nice nouns and adjectives, mo
Althea Ann
This month's Post-apocalyptic Book Club selection.
This was a re-read, though I'd read it so long ago it might as well have been in the Jurassic period.
JG Ballard succeeds marvelously in creating a hallucinatory, dreamlike environment here. Solar flares have heated the Earth. Only 5 million people still live, mainly on military-style bases in the Antarctic. Our protagonist, Kerans, is a biologist assigned to a team with the singularly pointless task of venturing south and mapping the changed eart
Daniel Edelman
HOLY COW... This is a book written by a well educated british colonial gent and holy shit, does it read like it.

Actually it reads more like the musings of Hedley Lamarr in "Blazing Saddles." A never ending whirl of psychobabble and 10 dollar words. What that leaves you with is 145 pages of prose about ponds and the jungle and our return to a more primitive state. What THAT leaves you with is 50 or so pages of hollow characters more or less exchanging hollow bon mots.

Also, this book is clearly w
fittingly, The Drowned World takes place in London, post-global warming when the ice-caps have melted & sea levels have risen, turning the city into a fecund swamp...the surprising thing is that Ballard wrote The Drowned World in 1962, when i'm sure little was known about climate change...not only is the [drowned:] world more flooded [& mottled with vast alluvial silt deposits:], but the rising temperatures had also induced a regression back to a new Triassic Age dominated by reptiles & ...more
Ethan Miller
Wow! I am beginning to think J.G. Ballard has the touch. I can't say that the "Drowned World" propelled me along the way that "High Rise" did but still Ballard's blend of big, dark concepts that you can continue to wrangle with long after you finish and his ability to spin a great yarn with sharp, succinct characters is such a rare thing. So quickly the edgiest concepts in post modern sci-fi can get lost in a labyrinth of it's own genius that too often leave the reader outside scratching for the ...more
At it's best when it achieved a cloying dreamlike atmosphere. It takes something of his Empire of the Sun experiences of a world turned upside down and crosses it with Heart of Darkness with a similar sense of a journey both back in time and into the psyche.
J G Ballard is a writer I have very mixed feelings towards. Some of his work I've loved, other has just made me feel icky. I didn't even finish the Unlimited Dream Company. The Drowned World was a sucess in that I finished it, and I enjoyed it, although it was a little heavy and dense at times. It's a post apocalyptic style tale, so it was already on to a winner with me. I really enjoyed his other disaster book, The Drought, so now in an alternative disaster scenario there's too much of the stuf ...more
Kate Sherrod
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Quite a nice little novel, part of Ballard's "elemental apocalypse" quartet. Not as good as The Crystal World, on par with The Drought aka THE BURNING WORLD (although very different in focus), better than The Wind from Nowhere (which was probably a better title than THE BLOWING WORLD).

Much like all the others save WIND, this is in some ways Ballard reworking THE HEART OF DARKNESS by Conrad. In an oddly prescient, if coincidental, mirroring of global warming, the angle of the Earth's orbit has ch
Katie Grainger
The Drowned World is a novel which is mainly concerned with the devolution of planet Earth. Solar fares have caused the planet to heat up resulting in catastrophic climate change. The excessive heat has caused the ice caps to melt causing flooding while the temperature has risen creating a swamp like environment which means the Earth’s climate has regressed. As the climate changes so do the species, reptiles become the dominant species.

The novel focuses on a small group of scientist who are try
THE DROWNED WORLD. (1962). J. G. Ballard. ****.
The edition of this novel that I read was the 50th Anniversary edition. It was Ballard’s second novel, and the one that brought him to the attention to the reading public – especially the world of science fiction readers. Most readers know him from hs two novels that have been made into successful films: “Empire of the Sun,” and “Crash.” He has gained a reputation of possessing a critical ability to predict occurrences in the future that mostly come
Alice Bridgwater
Davvero stupendo, soprattutto se si considera che è stato scritto negli anni '60! Descrive uno scenario apocalittico assolutamente verosimile e quanto mai moderno!
Il sole gigantesco che invade gli occhi e la mente, i rettili che riprendono il sopravvento, l'acqua che ricopre e cancella i segni di ogni civiltà... un lento ritorno al punto di partenza, al liquido amniotico del brodo primordiale in cui la vita si è sviluppata e verso cui tornerà...
"I loved this book only recently read e
The Drowned World
J.G. Ballard
176, paperback

Alas, our second choice for 'book club,' this of course being February's selection and also just happens to be the book I selected for such. I wanted a quick easy read since we had just come off the heals of Blood Meridian.

The author, J.G. Ballard, has lived a very interesting life in my opinion. He was born and raised in Shanghai before the onset of World War 2 and lived in a Japanese internment camp throughout the onset of the war. During this period,
Realistically this is closer, probably, to 3.5 stars instead of 4, but I liked it more than most books I guess 3 stars, so I didn't feel like that was the right rating. ANYWAY.

Ballard's first novel (other than the one he's disowned, I guess), is very interesting in premise, and definitely shows where he would go in his career, but to me the narrative gets bogged down by featuring too many characters that are more than just background noise. What I liked so much about High Rise and especially Con
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J.G. Ballard: The Drowned World 2 13 May 20, 2014 09:53AM  
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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
More about J.G. Ballard...
Crash Empire of the Sun High-Rise The Atrocity Exhibition Concrete Island

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“Strangman shrugged theatrically. "It might," he repeated with great emphasis. "Let's admit that. It makes it more interesting—particularly for Kerans. 'Did I or did I not try to kill myself?' One of the few existential absolutes, far more significant than 'To be or not to be?', which merely underlines the uncertainty of the suicide, rather than the eternal ambivalence of his victim." He smiled down patronisingly at Kerans as the latter sat quietly in his chair, sipping at the drink Beatrice had brought him. "Kerans, I envy you the task of finding out—if you can.” 4 likes
“Nothing endures for so long as fear. Everywhere in nature one sees evidence of innate releasing mechanisms literally millions of years old, which have lain dormant through thousands of generations but retained their power undiminished. The field rat’s inherited image of the hawk’s silhouette is the classic example - even a paper silhouette drawn across a cage sends it rushing frantically for cover. And how else can you explain the universal but completely groundless loathing of the spider, only one species of which has ever been known to sting? Or hatred of snakes and reptiles? Simply because we all carry within us a submerged memory of the time when the giant spiders were lethal, and when the reptiles were the planet’s dominant life form.” 2 likes
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