Angie's Reviews > The Drowned World

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
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Feb 12, 12

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Read from January 29 to February 12, 2012

Reading this hugely imaginative and frighteningly realistic futuristic thriller has only bought home to me just how prolific an author JG Ballard was.

The premise is self-explanatory - the future, the planet heating to an alarming level and the remaining inhabitants heading to the poles while the main land masses are flooded by rising sea levels and soon emerging jungle landscapes appear; giant silt banks complete with jungle life - iguanas, alligators amongst others.

The central character is a scientist, Kerans, who is working in a team looking at how life is evolving due to the conditions. It doesn't take long for the realisation that man in his most basic form, will also now continue to change, just as the flora, fauna and animals are reverting to those most common in the Triassic period. This manifests itself initially in dark moods, the need for isolation but later becomes more frighteningly basic in pack instinct, primal fights for survival and a series of disturbing nightmares and dreams effected by the intense heat.

I loved the descriptions of the landscape - London as it is now seen, submerged, lost and haunted. The story begins to turn nasty when a deranged Bond-like villain, Strangman, appears with his henchmen (combing historic sites for now worthless artefacts) and the story really kicks off on a quite sinister level thereafter. My only disappointment was that the only female character in this novel, Beatrice, really is of no substance and has no hidden depths other than eye candy in the midst of destruction - a form of bejewelled Cleopatra overseeing the faltering landscape.

The amazing prose is not only scientific but at times, quite breathtaking:

''Reflecting these intermittent flares, the deep bowl of the water shone in a diffused opalescent blur, the discharged light of myriads of phosphorescing animalcula, congregating in dense shoals like a succession of submerged haloes. Between them the water was thick with thousands of entwined snakes and eels, writhing together in frantic tangles that tore the surface of the lagoon.''

''His unconscious was rapidly becoming a well-stocked pantheon of tutelary phobias and obsessions, homing onto his already over-burdened psyche like lost telepaths. Sooner or later the archetypes themselves would become restive and start fighting each other, anima against persona, ego against id.''

The Drowned World has certainly made me feel that I will be sure to read more JG Ballard in the future. A truly excellent read.
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