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The Drowned World

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  12,236 ratings  ·  834 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 Dystopian and Post Apocalyptic often get blended together nowadays, usually because the post apocalyptic world is quite unpleasant.

The human…more
Dystopian and Post Apocalyptic often get blended together nowadays, usually because the post apocalyptic world is quite unpleasant.

The human population seems to have been greatly reduced to a comparatively low number, and if London (which currently is not known for hot weather) is a barely habitable jungle, what would you think the world south of the city would be like? Humans have basically are confined to one small colonized area in the north, and chances are that won't be habitable in the long run either.(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 up
J.L.   Sutton
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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. I
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi, british, sociology
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
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.

Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scifi, fiction, 2018, 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-squeez
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.
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
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
Leonard Gaya
There is a vision of genius 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 the fact that this is not some 21st century SF novel takin ...more
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
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
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
David 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
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
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
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.

Simon Fay
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 routed firmly in the past, another is stretched well into the future, even beyond what a lot of contemporary science fiction writers would attempt to accomplish today.

The protagonist of the piece is
Greg Watson
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Nothing endures for so long as fear."
Perhaps the most startling aspect of Ballard's novel is the psychology of fear. As the environment devolves in The Drowned World, Dr. Kearns, the novel's main character devolves internally. His nightmares become his reality in the harsh climate depicted in the story. However, not only is he not repelled by the change, he moves headlong into it until the novel's tragic end.
MJ Nicholls
Ballard’s sophomore novel (following the disowned The Wind from Nowhere) imagines 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. Ballard is never wrong. The flood is coming. Oar up, ladies and gents. Blub blub.
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
Lark Benobi
Oh gosh I've honestly at last lost track of how many J.G. Ballard novels I've read this month. They are unique, in a way that is consistent from novel to novel but like no other author I know. I keep ping-ponging back and forth as I read these novels between thinking 'oh gosh this is so over-the-top ridiculous,' and then, kind of getting lost in the vivid technicolor imaginings of these worlds Ballard is creating and surrendering to them, and losing my sense of how I define 'ridiculous'. They ar ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
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 i ...more
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Mud. Silt. Heat. Floodwaters. And plants. Gonzo, all conquering plants spreading across a doomed earth. These are the images that stuck in my mind after reading The Drowned World. If you’re looking for something uplifting I advise you to look elsewhere - you’re unlikely to crack a smile at any point in this grim story. However, if you don't mind reading under a futile-struggle-against-implacable-forces cloud then Ballard's book is well worth your time - its a skilfully told story full of vivid ...more
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
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, mo
Rusty's Ghost Engine (also known as.......... Jinky Spring)
Review first posted

I think I read somewhere (in some kind of old interview) that this novel had a special place in the author’s heart. While I totally understand why every author takes pride in their work, this book I could hardly see anything special or mesmerising about the story or especially the characters.

It is set in the future where solar flares have caused global warming and the ice caps to melt and everywhere except for the two poles is too hot f
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
Paul Bryant
nice piece by Martin Amis about Ballard here
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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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