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The Drowned World

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  20,166 ratings  ·  1,292 reviews
First published in 1962, J.G. Ballard's mesmerizing and ferociously prescient novel imagines a terrifying future in which solar radiation and global warming have melted the polar ice caps and Triassic-era jungles have overrun a submerged and tropical London. Set during the year 2145, the novel follows biologist Dr. Robert Kerans and his team of scientists as they confront ...more
Paperback, 50th Anniversary, 198 pages
Published May 20th 2013 by Liveright (first published June 30th 1962)
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Dat-Dangk Vemucci
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Kate Some study expedition about what was going on in the rest of the world, and searching for resources and other possible survivors.
It was his job and s…more
Some study expedition about what was going on in the rest of the world, and searching for resources and other possible survivors.
It was his job and someone had to do it. Different meat, I suppose? (Moose, caribou, seals are possibilities.). Or artificial meat.(less)

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Bill Kerwin
Sep 22, 2014 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
Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
”The solar disc was no longer a well-defined sphere, but a wide expanding ellipse that fanned out across the eastern horizon like a colossal fire-ball, its reflection turned the dead leaden surface of the lagoon into a brilliant copper shield. By noon, less than four hours away, the water would seem to burn.”

 photo Drowned20World_zps8eulomm1.jpg

Solar radiation has melted the polar ice caps, and the oceans have risen to engulf most of the major cities of Europe and America. These cities have become tropical lagoons with only the
J.L.   Sutton
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Image result for ballard drowned world

The Drowned World is my first JG Ballard novel, but it won't be my last. Civilization is swallowed up by encroaching oceans. The lavish scenes of nature reclaiming the world belie the apocalyptic overtones. Life is shown adapting to a period on earth comparable to the Triassic Period. That is, all forms of life (including plants) adapt to the changing world except for man. People seem out of place even alien in the newly formed landscapes. De-evolved nature is inhospitable to man; it feels like
Henry Avila
Jun 17, 2020 rated it liked it
The future looks grim as the relentless Sun's rays beat down on poor old Earth of the 22nd century , hotter and hotter the temperature rises and the polar ice caps begin to melt causing the tides to come in but will not stop inundating the hapless citizens of the saturated world as the waters hundreds of feet high fall they cannot survive the crushing weight and are breathing their last mouthful of air so much destruction buildings collapse and vanish beneath the wetness, civilization ceases to ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: british, sociology, sci-fi
Goodbye to All That

The end of the British Empire was not a sudden event, more a slow burn over decades. For many around the world, its progress was masked by the rather more terrifying facts of the Cold War and its potential for the destruction of life on Earth. Nonetheless the disintegration of the Empire was not without its loss, in the opinion of some, to global culture. But how to express such a sentiment without jingoistic intimations of sour grapes? A fiction about the effects of global wa
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Oh, what's left to be said about J. G. Ballard? If you have yet to enter his cult, his realm--please do so soon. The man is dead, and so his sea of work is a limited lake--of placid doom, of absolute apocalypse. He is often imitated--M. Crichton & the new "Annhilation/Southern Reach" trilogy guy come to mind, but he is as unique a literary voice as any of the greats. He is, actually, currently under Canonization negotiations by the Crazy Cray-cray Literary Canon.

Oh, this dude is inspiring. In "T
It's 2045 and due to the sun becoming unstable, Earth's temperatures have been rising to Triassic-era levels. Humans have fled to the arctic poles. Civilization as we know it has been heated up, and gradually covered - in water, in silt, in frighteningly fecund plant life. The animals that dominate are lizards, crocodiles and huge, malarial mosquitoes.

That's where this strange, apocalyptic novel starts. In a jungle that used to be a city. At first, I felt like I, too, was hacking through strangl
Leonard Gaya
There is something special in Ballard’s Drowned World, and it is all about the setting: in the aftermath of some cataclysmic event, London has been turned into some prehistorical lagoon. Only the tops of the tallest buildings still emerge, half-swallowed up by the profuse tropical vegetation, and giant reptiles slither everywhere in the sultry swamps that have invaded the collapsing Westminster and Covent Garden. Even more surprising is that this is not some 21st-century SF novel taking advantag ...more
May 02, 2007 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.

Susan Budd
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Drowned World was my introduction to Ballard. I don’t know what I liked more: the lavishly described landscape with its swollen sun, primeval jungle, and shrieking iguanas or the inner landscape of recurring dreams, instinctive impulses, and psychological obsessions. It’s the combination of these two worlds—the outer and the inner—that give The Drowned World its depth and hypnotic air.

The outer world is described in such poetic prose that a narrative is nearly unnecessary. It is a “voodoo j
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, fiction, scifi, dystopia
'Nothing endures so long as fear."
J.G. Ballard, The Drowned World


I promise God. I promise I've learned my lesson. I'll review these books sooner. I loved this book, dear God, but now I have to go back to my lizard brain memory to recall why. Oh, yeah, because nobody figured out our 21st-Century global clusterfuckery as early in the 1960s as J.G. Ballard (ok, perhaps PKD, or Pynchon). He seemed to be writing our nightmares now 50+ years ago. It is hard to read this and not feel strapped-on-squee
Mar 15, 2012 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
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
This was my introduction to J.G. Ballard. How to best describe this book? I would call it apocalyptic realism. I thought I invented that term until I looked it up, and yes it exists. It's an apocalyptic future that I can see happening, and I imagine it very much like Ballard does here, except my version is tied to climate change and his is caused by a changing sun. Also, it has an eerie similarity to Conrad's Heart of Darkness. I'm certainly looking forward to reading more of Ballard's work. ...more
Dave Schaafsma
The Drowned World is one of four novels J. G. Ballard wrote about the same time about the environment. Published in 1962, it seems prophetic, in that it proposes that global warming would melt the polar ice caps, and the resulting raised sea level would drown cities. One interesting thing about the book is that the cause as Ballard has it in this book is that solar storms—known to affect Earth weather—become so severe that they scorch the planet. This theory roughly aligns with the current 1% (o ...more
lark benobi
Whenever I read a Ballard novel I keep ping-ponging back and forth, as I read, between thinking 'oh gosh this is so over-the-top ridiculous,' and just plain 'wow.' Eventually I get lost in the vivid technicolor imaginings of these worlds, and surrender to them, and lose my sense of how to define 'ridiculous'. They are a little psychedelic. You need to surrender any sense of propriety or good taste to enter into them fully.

The Drowned World is my favorite so far. It feels like a silly mash-up of
Simon Fay
(You can watch my video discussion of the book here: https://youtu.be/CQrrMtwZioY)

There was a time in science fiction when scientists were attractive square-jawed types. Not quite as cool as James Bond, but certainly as confident in their abilities, and no less successful with the women they met.

J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World comes on the heels of this trend - while one foot is rooted firmly in the past, another is stretched well into the future, even beyond what a lot of contemporary science
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
The Drowned World is set in the future in a world where the ice caps have melted and only the tallest buildings stand above the water and the earth's temperature has increased significantly. The premise is that the extreme weather conditions turning the planet into primeval swamp are inducing in the characters a return to a more primitive form of consciousness - think of the Marlon Brando character in Apocalypse Now (worth noting Ballard wrote this long before Coppola's film was conceived). This ...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'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

The Drowned World felt a bit like the old school adventure tales of Jules Verne mixed with some David Attenborough. Strangely, despite it's serious nature of global catastrophe, I found it quite funny in places. Of the characters I found Strangman - a pirate leading a band of bounty-hunters on a search for the lost treasures of the civilized world - to be the highlight.

No doubt this novel blazes with a stifling heat and humidity that you can truly feel, as well the striking imagery - from wolf
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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
1960's Thrillers

The style of this novel reminded me a lot of the type of thriller that I read at school as an early teenager, in particular the works of Alistair MacLean. His thrillers were mostly written in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Ballard's novel was written in 1962.

Third Millennium Eco-thriller

"The Drowned World" is set about sixty or seventy years after a naturally occurring environmental catastrophe. "A series of violent and prolonged solar storms lasting several years caused by a
Sean Barrs
I’m so very disappointed with this one. The Drowned World has such a dark tone, and the post-apocalyptic imagery of a sunken world is hauntingly eery, but the novel suffers because of a lack of plot and direction.

Indeed, there’s something off about The Drowned World. It should be a good book. Most of the vital parts are here, though it fails to come together. The prose is heavily descriptive and almost poetic at points. The setting is certainly the book’s strongest point, and the way it’s so vi
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
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Ballard wrote this dystopian novel in the early 1960s, but it is still resonant today and it deals with a drastic increase in temperature on the earth; it is set in 2145. The premise is fairly simple; temperatures have greatly increased and the polar icecaps melted; temperatures around the equator can reach well over 150 degrees. Most life is centred on the polar areas. Jungle proliferates and evolution has goes into overdrive with some insects, reptiles and plants developing and changing very q ...more
Aug 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
There is a fine line with regards to descriptive writing. Some authors ignore it completely and their passages start to become overwrought. In his construction of submerged London, Ballard toes that line wonderfully. His descriptive prose is the strongest aspect of this novel. It is also an intellectually stirring work. I could not quite get on board with the biological memory thing (at least all the way back to Cretaceous and Pennsylvanian timeframes, since homo sapiens and even our ancestors w ...more
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.

The Drowned World written by James Graham Ballard (Shanghai, 1930 – Shepperton, 2009) is a peculiar piece of work combining science fiction with the concepts of Jungian psychology. So that from a narrative genre it becomes first an effective cognitive mean, later a tool of self-examination, succeeding then in revealing the overflowing power of archetypes: those primordial instincts that dominate the subconscious and can drag at the bottom or at the surface of emotional awareness. 
J. G. Ballard ...more
Dec 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
I liked this quite a bit more than I was expecting. There was something compelling in the bleak pictures it paints of man's psyche crumbling as the world around us succumbs to the blistering heat and reptile infested swamps of a future afflicted by intense climate change (brought about by nature, not man). A reversion to the primordial. Ballard suggests an innate connection between man and environment, transcending consciousness and driving to the core of ancient organic memories in our very DNA ...more
Kara 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
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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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