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The Drowned World

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,496 Ratings  ·  499 Reviews
A debut novel, set in London in the near future. The capital city has been flooded and transformed into a tropical location where social aberrations only serve as an indicator of the level of corruption of the modern mentality.
Paperback, 176 pages
Published June 1st 1987 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published June 30th 1962)
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Bill  Kerwin
Feb 26, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Although today J.G. Ballard is perhaps better known as the author of two books which 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 Wo
Mar 27, 2008 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
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.

Sep 28, 2015 Apatt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
J.G. Ballard, what an interesting author, they broke the mold 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 his
The Drowned World: Diving into the pellucid depths of our racial memories
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
The Drowned World (1962) is J.G. Ballard’s best apocalyptic work, the other two being The Burning World (1964) and The Crystal World (1966), but if you are thinking of an action-packed adventure where a plucky group of survivors clings to decency amid the collapse of civilization, this is the wrong book. Ballard was interested in ‘inner space,’ and while he sometimes adopted SF tropes
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's experience in a Japanese interment camp near Shanghai while in his early teens comes through in The Drowned World his first novel in the idea that the life we lead is a stage set. Once the set is changed, then the actors start
Kostas Papadatos
Feb 18, 2016 Kostas Papadatos rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Η -πλημμύρα- είναι ένα μυθιστόρημα που περιγράφει μια τεράστιων διαστάσεων κλιματική αλλάγη, όπου όλη η γη είναι καλυμένη με νερό λόγω της ραγδαίας αύξησης της θερμοκρασίας.Ένα βιβλίο με πρωτότυπο για την εποχή που εκδόθηκε θέμα το οποίο δυστυχώς χαντακώνεται.
Η γραφή του συγγραφέα είναι επιεικώς απαράδεκτη και επιτηδευμένη. Ο Ballard είναι ικανός να σχηματίσει πρόταση μόονο με κοσμητικά επίθετα του τύπου..μενεξεδένιο δειλινό..ροδοδάχτυλη αυγούλα και μενεξεδένιος κwλος. Eπίσης αναλώνεται συνεχώς
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.

Mar 16, 2012 Kathy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
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
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
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
J.G. Keely
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 many 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 cannot match the furious voice or psychological insights of Conrad.

Ballard distinguishes himself as a competent
Ballard's second novel, following The Wind From Nowhere, (read last year when I wasn't blogging my reviews, sorry) continues the theme of extreme environmental change and how his characters deal with it. There are a couple of radical shifts from the earlier book.

I am a bit obsessed these days with climate fiction (it even has a genre abbreviation: CliFi) because despite ISIS, racial upheaval, the circus of the Presidential race, etc etc, we won't be able to be entertained by all this foolishnes
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
Apr 03, 2015 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This is an excellent fast paced story set in a post climate change world where solar flares have melted ice caps and glaciers across the globe leaving only the poles vaguely habitable. Set 70 years after with the few human survivors eking out a living on army research bases and remaining ships we follow Dr Kerans, Beatrice Dahl and others as they try and find their own way through in this strange aquatic world. As the temperatures rise and storms threaten their lagoon world another threat arrive ...more
Mar 13, 2016 poingu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book feels like a wild, silly mash-up of Heart of Darkness with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, complete with a lascivious-albino-nihilist-sadist-petty-dictator, deformed black henchmen armed with machetes and knives, and three good white folk, who are fighting the emergence of their reptile-brain memories, while at the same time drinking excellent whiskey, wearing formal evening clothes, and trying to survive the steaming jungle swamps of post-global-warming London. Both r ...more
Apr 08, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok  ·  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, mos
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
Reverse evolution....genetic memory....and a drowned world. I couldn't put it down, it was a captivating world.
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.
Sep 25, 2014 Bandit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 28, 2015 fromcouchtomoon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given the praise, this begins as surprisingly pedestrian '60s fic, but then the curious repetitions start and his bold word choices strike out at the subconscious, incubating visions in the brainwomb, reinforcing the metaphor, foreshadowing regression, inspiring inward contemplation while becoming a more powerful statement than the story would suggest. Evolutionary atavism at its finest.
Kate Sherrod
Oct 07, 2012 Kate Sherrod rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
‘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
Oct 15, 2010 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, fantasy
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
This is the near future. The glaciers have melted. Population control has been more than achieved - the world's population is down to 5 million and falling. There are no cool spots. People are moving further and further North or South, towards the Artic and Antarctica. This story is based in what used to be London, before the glaciers melted and drowned it. But now open water is disappearing because of silt. The temperatures are fiercely hot, with 95 degrees centigrade now considered cool. And a ...more
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
A very drifting, dreamy, hallucinatory sort of book - at least for the first half. I really should have read this outdoors in the summer time to get the steamy, humid feeling of the swamps rather than during fall. Today's chilly breeze didn't fit well with the 110+ F setting of the book!

It reminded me quite a bit of Heart of Darkness, which is a mixed blessing in my mind, considering that I've never been able to figure out to what degree Joseph Conrad really meant any of his racist cracks. And w
Nov 17, 2009 Derek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 &a ...more
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J.G. Ballard: The Drowned World 4 25 Dec 04, 2015 03:12PM  
  • The Centauri Device
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  • Pavane
  • Rogue Moon
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  • The Long Tomorrow
  • Bring the Jubilee
  • After London: or, Wild England
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  • Emphyrio
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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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“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.” 5 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.” 4 likes
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