Empire Of The Sun
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Empire Of The Sun

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  8,636 ratings  ·  447 reviews
Based on J. G. Ballard's own childhood, this is the extraordinary account of a boy's life in Japanese-occupied wartime Shanghai - a mesmerising, hypnotically compelling novel of war, of starvation and survival, of internment camps and death marches. It blends searing honesty with an almost hallucinatory vision of a world thrown utterly out of joint. Rooted as it is in the...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 12th 1994 by Flamingo (first published October 25th 1984)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
A few days ago, I learned a new Japanese word. Nijuuhibakusha means literally "twice radiation-sick individual", and refers to the few people who, through staggering bad luck, managed to be present both at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and then at Nagasaki three days later. The article I read was an obituary for Tsutomu Yamaguchi, the last surviving nijuuhibakusha. I was not surprised to discover that Mr. Yamaguchi was strongly opposed to nuclear weapons, and had spent a substantial part of his l...more
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 10, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: 1001-core, war
I should have listened to my brother. He said last year that because Crash (1973 published) elicited strong, even if negative, reaction from me, then it meant J. G. Ballard (1930-2009) was a genius. That book was disgusting. I hated almost everything about the story. Up to now I cannot get over the characters that hurt themselves by crashing their cars and there is that part where the hole in the body is bleeding and to stop the blood from flowing, an erect penis has to be inserted. Holy cow. I...more
Kim
I remember one Saturday afternoon during the winter of 1987/1988 when my friend Chuck and I decided that instead of hitting the mall we would take in a movie. Our choices weren’t great… Rent-a-Cop, Return of the Living Dead Part II , Braddock, Missing in Action Part III. Yeah, so, we opted for Empire of the Sun. I had no real inkling to see it. I really didn’t care.

I remember that the movie had these big gaps of silence. Shots of Christian Bale running around an internment camp, flying a toy b...more
Whitaker
The interesting thing about The Empire of the Sun is the time period Ballard writes about. I don't mean the period of the protagonist's incarceration. In fact, the book pretty much skips most of the four years that Jim spends in the POW camp. We are with Jim at the start of the war when he is 10 years old and he fights his way to get into the POW camp, and we are with him again at the end of the war when he is 14 years old and he fights his way from the chaos of a countryside filled with ragged...more
Emily
Don't let the Spielberg connection turn you off. This is a devastating slow burn of a book, one that I picked up fairly randomly, and have been reeling from ever since. The prose is scrupulously plain, but the psychological detail as strange and transporting as anything more self-consciously lyrical. It chronicles the author's childhood experiences as a prisoner-of-war in WWII Japan, but this isn't a typical novel-memoir; there's a traumatized shimmer to the third-person narration (there's no "I...more
MJ Nicholls
With a childhood like this, it's easy to see why Ballard became the ultimate novelist of alienation, perversity and despair. The matter-of-factness regarding death, starvation and nuclear bombs is often discombobulating – especially when Jim leaves long-term friends behind to die with no flicker of emotion – but provides a unique psychological insight into WWII that few wartime novels have ever achieved.

An uncompromising classic.
Mariel
Jul 27, 2009 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kids with nice manners
Recommended to Mariel by: John Malkovich
Everything I need to know in life I learned from Empire of the Sun.
David
I must have drifted out at crucial points because I found the geography very confusing. How far was the airfield from the camp? And the Olympic stadium? The Bund? That ceramic factory? The French Concession? How did the Japanese drivers get lost, when Jim can almost always see all these places? The map at the front of the book is crap and doesn't include many of the locations.

I thought that the action was confusing at times. I’d have an image of what was happening and suddenly someone would pop...more
Herrikias
Oct 03, 2007 Herrikias rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are insulated in the West.
The book resonated beyond being the key to unlocking the symbolism found in the rest of Ballard's works. In its own brutal way, it is the dawning of a sheltered european to the reality of the world. Thinking turned for idle fancy to centering on trade. How everyone needs something just like you, and how to obtain it with objects, skills, or favors. How everyone takes everyone else for granted. Not just the Americans using Jim, but in turn how Jim has no qualms exploiting those who take pity on h...more
Jeff Jackson
A biographical novel that deals with Ballard's time in Japanese internment camps during WWII, told with an unusual slant: The narrator almost seems to thrive and looks up to his captors as the only ones who can protect him. On its own, a brutal and fascinating story -- but for fans, it's also the Ballardian Rosetta Stone, the ground zero source of his recurring fascination with drained swimming pools, empty runways, dead pilots, open air cinemas, etc. "Yet only part of his mind would leave Shagh...more
Megan Baxter
Hmm, three or four stars? This was good, but I don't think I'll read it again. On the other hand, that particular feeling does not say that this was a mediocre book. But that personal gut reaction is what I tend to use for star ratings - four stars means I would like to or wouldn't mind reading it again. Five stars are books I feel the need to own.

So this is a three star review, but it is probably a better book than that.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes...more
Becky
This was a very interesting book. Probably like most people, when I think of WWII, I think of a few historical "touchpoints": Nazi Germany, Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, Hiroshima. The biggies.

This book isn't about any of them. Well, not directly. This book is personal and intimate and shows the gritty underbelly of a war that people like to romanticize. Heck, even the main character romanticized the war, and he was living it!

Quickie synopsis: Jim is happy and sheltered living in Shanghai with his p...more
F.R.
I honestly don’t know what’s the matter with me. Despite being a big Ballard fan, I'd never actually read this until now. The fuzzy reason I gave myself was that this was the mainstream book that Spielberg adapted, and so didn't chime in with the Ballard I generally deal with. However I’m glad I put my absurd prejudices aside, as this is brilliant!

Even though Ballard is dealing with the past rather than future, he does evoke this other world – which to Western eyes at least – is completely alien...more
Marvin
J. G. Ballard's novels often perplexes me. He has a stunningly powerful style of writing yet it often feels emotionally detached. Empire of The Sun is not only his best novel but goes a long way to explain the author's somewhat schizoid style of writing. The autobiographical novel is based on his internment as a child in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in China during World War II. Even though it is called a novel, I would not be surprised to find that very little is actually fictional. For Ball...more
Meirav Rath
Dec 24, 2007 Meirav Rath rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of good fiction, historical fiction lovers
Oh, Steven Spielberg, how dare you kill this wonderful book's plot with a blunt instrument, burn it, trample it and then leave it to be raped by a horde of Cossacks, how?! Here's one book which was not for you to bring to the silver screen.
Unlike the film, this book managed to properly portray Jim's character, his experiences and to capture, complete and perfect, the lives of English citizens trapped behind Japanese lines in China. It's wonderfully written, the horrors laced gently with the exp...more
Leslie
I debated with myself whether this was a memoir or historical fiction -- Ballard's foreword clear states that the book is based on his memories of his experiences from 1941-1945 in Shanghai & Lunghao internment camp but on the opposing page is the now traditional caveat "This is a work of fiction... any resemblance to actual places or people is unintentional..."

I found that I had a hard time relating to Jim. I liked the way that at times, his beliefs are touchingly childish and at others, t...more
Dennis
War transforms everything it touches and no person who has lived through it can be unchanged from having survived. So it was surprising to read the detailed account of an upper-class English boy who undergoes very little discernible character development despite outlasting nearly four horrendous years as a World War II prisoner.

Young Jamie Ballard is the only child of wealthy British expatriates living in 1941 Shanghai whose exclusive country club world is the French Concession neighborhood – co...more
Louise
would classify Empire of the Sun as an adventure novel about a boy’s life during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in WWII.

The book is graphic and spares no details about how people die, but it wasn’t graphic to the point where I had to put it down. Halfway through reading this, I realized that it was not fiction and was actually an autobiography, which made it a bit more difficult to read the particularly gruesome parts.

Empire of the Sun not only has an accurate portrayal of how a teenage boy...more
Maureen
This is an incredibly special book.

J.G. Ballard used his experience as a child in a prisoner of war camp during the second Sino-Japanese War as the basis of the story of Jim, who in 1941 was an eleven year-old schoolboy of British extraction. Jim only knew Shanghai as home, with his mother and father, the chauffeur and the maids that made up the core of his universe. When Japanese warships fired on Chinese vessels in the Yangtze River, Jim had a front row seat from his hotel window on the Bund....more
Adam
Either a great intro or the ultimate conclusion of your Ballard reading. Here all his obsessions are presented but given to a more accessible protagonist and tied to a real time and place, the fall of Shanghai. It’s possibly one of the best books on this aspect of World War Two. This is an almost a mainstream effort by Ballard but only in reference to its coherency and accessibility. It is still a parade of surreal visions with burning pilots, drained pools, and flickering, haunting images of fi...more
Jan-Maat
Two things stand out in this memoir. The world-turned-upside-down story which resurfaces in several of Ballard's later novels and the oddly half affectionate tone of the child narrator for the Japanese even in the internment camp. Novels like The Drowned World and The Drought just seem a further fictionalisation of the childhood experience.
Leila
An enjoyable read, this semi-autobiographical story is told from the perspective of a boy (aged 11-14 in the book) witnessing WWII Shanghai, including internment by the Japanese from 1942-45. Haunting descriptive prose. I did feel myself get war fatigue by the end of the book, but in many ways that is the point. I learned while reading this book that Ballard is widely acclaimed as a Science Fiction writer and I could sense his aptitude for that genre even in this historical piece.

Now I need to g...more
Elissa
I read this book because the movie version is one of my all-time favorites. I was intrigued by the fact that this is semi-autobiographical and to see how true the movie was to the book. I was relieved to see that the general structure of the story is carried into the movie and that some movie dialogue comes directly from the book. But there are major differences between the two. While I wasn't a total fan of Ballard's writing style, I am so glad I read this classic and really enjoyed the process...more
Barbara
This was a moving, breathtaking book. It did not leave my thoughts well after reading it. The horrors of war were vividly spelled out. One must marvel at the will to continue existing while living through the destruction, loss and total destitition.
Cherryonion
Empire of the Sun is the story of what the author experienced during World War II when he was a boy living in Shanghai. The film is one of my favourites so I thought I should read the book and it was very interesting. There are a number of differences between the two and a lot more detail is given in the book, as to be expected. The one thing the story highlighted to me is how amazing people are and what they can survive and how easy it can be to adjust to extreme circumstances. The book is much...more
Mia Claire
I watched the movie of this book first before reading it so even before I open the book and skim its pages, I already have the grasp of the general idea and the plot line of the book. The movie was good. In fact, it made me cry so hard so when I learned that it's based on a novel by J.G. Ballard, I decided to read the book. I thought the book would be "just like the movie" but when I started reading… from the first chapter, "The Eve of Pearl Harbor", it hit me that it's different from the movie....more
DJ
Right here goes....
This is my first J.G.Ballard and whilst I only gave this one 3 Stars it will not be my last.I am already planning on reading THE KINDNESS OF WOMEN which is his sequel to this book.
I have given this book only 3 Stars in part as I have never read a "WAR" Book before and in part because I found at times the character of "Jaimie/Jim" to be quite annoying....
There was a lot of slow zones in this book but I think that that was only to be expected considering approximately half of th...more
Tom
Empire of the Sun was Ballard’s genre-breaking novel, making him known beyond the aficionados of speculative and science fiction. Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation only brought Ballard wider fame—and well deserved it was. This “autobiographical” novel grounds the author’s vivid imagination with personal experience to render a unique perspective on an historical moment.

The book is about a boy’s experiences in a Japanese detention camp outside Shanghai during World War II. Yes, Ballard lived tha...more
Peter
What a glorious book that just oozes class and the film does justice to. But then do they ever?

This book is written from the viewpoint of a teenage boy,Jim,interned in a prison camp just outside Shanghai during WWII along with other western foreign nationals. Jim goes from a spoilt and luxurious lifestyle to a struggle for mere existance in a fairly rapid passage of time. Yet he manages to display a remarkable resilience, an un-dying spirit and very little malice throughout his terrible experien...more
Emily  Cross
One of my favourite films is 'Empire of the Sun'. Based on J.G. Ballard's own childhood, this novel tells the story of a boy's life in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. A story of war, starvation and survival.

I found it hard to rate this book and even harder to review it. I found this book an uncomfortable read, not in a 'it made me want to blind myself' but more in a 'got under your skin and stays with you' sort of way. So I suppose I could call it 'profound'. There is no doubt that this book is a me...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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“After a few minutes Jim was forced to admit that he could recognize none of the constellations. Like everything else since the war, the sky was in a state of change. For all their movements, the Japanese aircraft were its only fixed points, a second zodiac above the broken land.” 3 likes
“All around them were the bodies of dead Chinese soldiers. They lined the verges of the roads and floated in the canals, jammed together around the pillars of the bridges. In the trenches between the burial mounds hundreds of dead soldiers sat side by side with their heads against the torn earth, as if they had fallen asleep together in a deep dream of war.” 2 likes
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