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The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  1,357 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews

First published in 1978, this collection of nineteen of Ballard's best short stories is as timely and informed as ever. His tales of the human psyche and its relationship to nature and technology, as viewed through a strong microscope, were eerily prescient and now provide greater perspective on our computer-dominated culture. Ballard's voice and vision have long served as

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paperback, 302 pages
Published October 28th 1978 (first published 1978)
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Stuart
The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard: A broad spectrum of Ballard’s capabilities
Originally published at Fantasy Literature
The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard (1979) was published in 1977 in the UK and 1978 in the US. It contains a few stories from J.G. Ballard’s earlier, more conventional SF phase in the late 1950s, his most productive and lyrical phase in the early and mid 1960s, and a small sampling of his experimental ‘condensed novel’ phase of the late 1960s/early 1970s. The stories are
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Isaac
Jan 19, 2008 Isaac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's useful, I think, to compare Ballard to Philip K. Dick -- they tread similar thematic region in their short fiction, and early in their careers employed a similar clipped cadence, where every character is simply Barker or Tallis or Ridgway and there are no female characters (or, indeed, any developed characters at all) to get in the way of the ideas. Their development as writers also followed comparable arcs, arcs followed by most cutting-edge writers of science fiction as the field entered
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Stephanie Sun
Feb 26, 2016 Stephanie Sun rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
The world has died and died and died again. Sometimes from the inside-out: in these short stories, civilizations let their rules slip away from them, eliminating temporal measurement or living space or the Earth's oceans in pursuit of forgotten goals. Sometimes from the outside-in: Ballard, a World War II internment camp survivor, was the self-appointed poet laureate of the atom bomb.

High highs and low lows here average out to a three. The variation in quality was not among stories, a flaw that
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Anne
Jun 16, 2008 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Reagan youth and those who love them
I was reading this as a sort of companion piece to Joan Didion's essays, as both are extremely fierce, and extremely detached vis-a-vis what's going on in the Reagan-Thatcher eras. I got it in my head to compare Didion's "John Wayne, a Love Song," with Ballard's "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan."

The former is a riveting, almost ballad-like chronicle of D's infatuation with the myth and larger-than-life heroism of the former Marion Morrison, and some speculation on the application of this tragi
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Michael
Aug 13, 2009 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This is the first book of Ballard's that I've read, and I was surprised by the variety and consistency of these stories. Ballard never falls into the generic faults of the genre the way most of the other great sci-fi authors have. Like all great writers in the genre, though, he is concerned less with the technology and more with its impact on humanity, less with the details of the future, and more with the mood, the experience of the person living in that future. These stories scare us in an exi ...more
Andy
Sep 03, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: science fiction fans
Shelves: kool-imports
The densest, coldest science fiction stories you'll ever read. The most claustrophobic piece of fiction ever written is "Billenium", a nightmare world of overpopulation. People are clustered in corners like cockroaches. Some of this shit will give you nightmares - guaranteed.
Vanessa
Mar 19, 2013 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-10-of-2013
If Margaret Atwood and George Orwell had a love child, it would be J.G. Ballard. Naturally, I am now a life long fan of Mr. Ballard. This is a 5 star collection, I mean it. So many of these stories rocked my world and will stay with me for a very long time. If you only decide to dip into a few of these, I hope my list below will help you decide which ones to pick.

DISCLOSURE: I have given a short description/teaser of what each story is about, so if you consider pretty much anything a spoiler, d
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Douglas Robillard
J.G. Ballard is one of my favorite all-time authors. I have 22 of his books, including this indespensible volume. He's best known for his autobiographical novel, EMPIRE OF THE SUN, filmed by Spielberg. During the 60s he wrote some of the most imaginative science fiction, a good sampling of which is collected here.

With this collection, start your Ballard experience by reading the haunting "The Drowned Giant." How does a community respond to the sudden appearance of an enormous drowned human bein
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Michele
Aug 22, 2016 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi_general
A truly superb collection of short stories from a great author. every story in here is terrific: clever, unusual, thought-provoking. Many of the stories deal with time in various ways, which I really enjoyed, and/or with humanity's idiotic tendency to let its technology outpace its morality (or its intelligence). "The Garden of Time" and "Deep End" broke my heart a little, while "The Subliminal Man" was so prescient of today's rabid consumer culture as to be seriously worrisome. (There's a short ...more
Peter
Ballard is an interesting author. Some of what he writes is science fiction, some is not. He writes about experiences and events more than building toward climactic endings. Some of the stories in this anthology barely even have an ending; instead you turn the page and see that he stopped describing what happened next.

The Drowned Giant, included, is probably his most famous piece unless something else is. It's about the human reaction to a giant humanoid that washes up dead on a beach. It rings
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Melissa
Sep 06, 2007 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classic sci-fi fans and lovers of dystopian lit
This collection of short stories is a wonderful example of dystopian literature. Ballard has earned a place among my top ranked authors; he really is an amazing writer. Although some of the technology used in his books is laughable (tape cassettes as a medium of data storage for example or the detrimental effects of subliminal advertising as another) the themes of the stories are still pertinent to today and include empty consumerism, blind reliance on technology and the fragility (or adaptabili ...more
Andrew
Sep 05, 2011 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The stories emphasizing time... I don't know. I don't think they're relevant. I also don't think the overpopulation stories were very relevant. I can see how they might resonate with overly insular science fiction reading shut-ins.

The Subliminal story was spot on- and a much better treatment of advertising, consumption, and humanity than Dick's story... I can't remember the name of Dick's story right now, but I remember the guy gets a robot and blasts into space and ends up committing suicide.
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Lenny Wick
Sep 02, 2014 Lenny Wick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read all these yet, preferring to take them slow. Let's not binge.

But, c'mon.

"Drowned Giant" is as key to my reading experience as anything. Says as much about our capacity to get used to and blow off any of the astonishing things about the world as anything else I've read.
David Agranoff
Fantastic collection of Ballard stories. Surreal,bizarro, Science fiction, horror, thought provoking and all around genius writing.
heidi mo
i abandoned this read.
Holly
May 04, 2013 Holly rated it really liked it
A book of science fiction short stories, for want of a better description re: genre. As Burgess states in the introduction, Ballard's is the science fiction of creative liberation. He doesn't merely write stories about people's lives in contemporary America - he explores human interaction in an alternate reality. Despite being set in an alternate reality, they are eeriely timeless in theme and present an alternative, often more of a nightmare or distopia than a utopia, to common human problems l ...more
Richard
Jul 11, 2015 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Given Ballard's reputation, I expected to enjoy this, but not nearly as much as I did. The prose just flows along, and he has that special gift for finding exactly the right path into an idea that will grab the reader's attention and keep it to the end. Just as with Phil Dick's shorter fiction, one ends up pleasantly surprised to find a genuine storyteller as well as a writer grappling with troubling questions and speculations.

The one downside for some of these stories is their dependence on cer
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Charlie Zoops
The Drowned Giant: (from book of short stories)
Is a story of a dead giant washed ashore. It is not a story of a land where mythical giants live, but of one where the real oddity of discovering a giant is a shocking and mysterious encounter. The event is traced by the eyewitness of a researcher who is skeptical at first, but later comes to keenly observe the unmoving mammoth body, along with the reactions to thousands of curious visitors who employ it under their own personal recreation, like som
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Allan Dyen-Shapiro
I'd read Crash and was fascinated with it, then I found this collection of Ballard's short stories in a used book sale. Well worth it. Yes, it had some stories from his later period when he was pioneering transgressive fiction, his eroticized treatment of technology, like in Crash. I particularly enjoyed one in which he presented the Kennedy assassination as if he was a reporter, reporting on an auto race ("Oswald was the starter," is how it starts out). I loved the wry humor. The humor proceede ...more
Danica
Feb 01, 2012 Danica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Punishing, cynical stuff.

What if the Earth were monstrously overpopulated?
What if all the water (ALL THE WATER) was pumped from our oceans and there was one fish left living in one scummy pond and then it got bashed to death by loathsome, cackling teenage spawn?
What if evolution went haywire in a controlled laboratory experiment and produced gruesome lifeforms? What if these gruesome lifeforms drove scientists to suicide?
What if a man was made so insane by the inanity of everyday living that he
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Anne Sharkey

Skimming over a few of the reviews given for 'Best Short Stories' I cannot believe that no one mentions the content from pg 296 to finish. Maybe they didnt reach that far? Im not sure. I did find this short story collection a struggle to get through and think that at least half of these stories should never have been included in the 'best' category. There are a few little gems though such as The Garden of Time, End Game and The Drowned Giant. A lot of the other stories included lose momentum and
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Nick
Jan 04, 2017 Nick marked it as never-finished  ·  review of another edition
[2016] I read about the first 100 pages and the last 20.

Between the style of writing and misunderstanding of science, these stories really show their age. The last two stories, "Plan for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy" and "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan," were actually my favorite of the stories I read, since they're experimental and funny enough to be interesting. The other stories had decent ideas in them, but I can only think to describe the writing as "generic." It took me a mont
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Mark McGinty
Jun 20, 2010 Mark McGinty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply amazing stuff from the great JG Ballard. It's surreal, it's haunting, it's frightening, it's downright fascinating!! The imagination and vision of these stories knows no bounds....A prisoner sentenced to die is forced to live in the same home as his executioner, and only the executioner knows the date and method of death...An overpopulated world where citizens are confined to 4x4 cubes and one lucky man finds an forgotten vacancy and finally has room to stretch his legs - until his friend ...more
Laura
Apr 12, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like this book could have been balanced. The first few stories are entirely preoccupied with time and sleep. This had me worried that the entire book was going to be about time and sleep. The last few stories gave me an enormous sensation of WTF (and disturbing disappointment as most of the people he referenced have died).

However, these minor negative marks could not remove the beauty and warning in Ballard's prose.

Though, honestly, why do most short story collections end with the least f
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Anthony Bolton
May 01, 2013 Anthony Bolton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ballards science fiction short stories are some of the most beautiful stories written. With the density of fairy tales and the psychological shock-waves of constant shifts in consciousness, for his characters and readers.They have a spontaneity and intensity that his late work lacked .
Paradoxically or not the more he became self aware and gained an objective knowledge of how his own past shaped him and was echoed in his work the less power his fiction had ,in my opinion.
Much better than his more
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Bob Rust
Oct 13, 2016 Bob Rust rated it it was amazing
The Concentration City • (1957)
Manhole 69 • (1957)
Chronopolis • (1960)
The Voices of Time • (1960)
Deep End • (1961)
The Overloaded Man • (1961)
Billennium • (1961)
The Garden of Time • (1962)
Thirteen to Centaurus • (1962)
The Subliminal Man • (1963)
The Cage of Sand • (1962)
End-Game • (1963)
The Drowned Giant • (1964)
The Terminal Beach • (1964)
The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D • [Vermilion Sands] • (1967)
The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race • (1966)
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Barry
Jan 24, 2011 Barry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are some interesting concepts and twists on old themes of isolation, oppression and madness. Ballard relies heavily on description, almost excessively, everything is "like" something else. The earliest stories are juvenile in aproach and execution, the heroes tend towards teen and college-age students. But you can observe the maturity level and complexity progress throughout, until a more surrealistic and impressionistic attitude takes over. Obviously a talented writer, Ballard needed this ...more
Glenn
May 09, 2009 Glenn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, short-stories
In Anthony Burgess's introduction, he talks about how Ballard is the greatest living writer of speculative fiction (ok, the intro is dated) and therefor the greatest living WRITER since speculative fiction/sci-fi is the greatest form of literature. I won't try to recap his reasons here, but the dozen or so stories collected here surely back him up, showing Ballard's great depth and breadth of topics and styles. I enjoyed everything from the classic pulpy sci-fi stories to the Twilight Zone-ish o ...more
Andrew Guthrie
It's a luxury when one finds a good author and then reads the entire oeuvre. I don't know if I'll get through ALL the Ballard's, but this was #2 after Empire of the Sun. I think the collection I read might have been an earlier edition (with forward by Anthony Burgess). In the scope of short stries you see why its hard the categorize Ballard: yes, he wrote some sci-fi, but is he really a sci-fi writer? Most definitely dystopian . . . the short story The Drowned Giant is a subtle masterpiece that ...more
Mike
Aug 28, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my intro to Ballard, and I'd say as good an intro as any. Stories like Manhole 69 and The Overloaded Man are speculative fear condensed into a few pages. The Subliminal Man, like his story "Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan," is the kind of SF that scares you just because of how much of it ended up becoming reality. I think it may be Burgess's intro where Ballard's SF work is called "Burroughs meets Aasimov," which is fair and complimentary, but only touches on the magic of actually read ...more
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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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