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Vermilion Sands

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  1,065 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
Like a latter-day Palm Springs, Vermillion Sands is a fully automated desert resort designed to fulfill the most exotic whims of the idle rich. But now it languishes in uneasy decay, populated only by forgotten movie stars, solitary impresarios and artistic and literary failures, a place where love and lust pall before the stronger pull of evil.


· The Cloud-Sculpto
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 1st 1988 by Carroll & Graf Publishers (first published 1971)
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Vermilion Sands: A desert resort for artists and wealthy eccentrics
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
J.G. Ballard is best known for his autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun (1984), along with his early novels like The Drowned World (1962), The Crystal World (1964), The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974), and High-Rise (1975). But many consider his best work to be his huge catalog of short stories, many of which were pivotal in the New Wave SF movement in th
Jun 10, 2012 Rhys rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Possibly my favourite Ballard book. It might not be as important as *The Atrocity Exhibition* or *Crash!* in terms of pushing the overfamiliar Ballardian sales patter that the future is already here, that we have adapted to the savage geometries (the motorway overpass, the multiple pile-up) of the modern world to the point where the natural world is now ‘unnatural’ to us; but instead there’s a wistfulness and a wit (exceptionally dry) on display here that’s very much to my taste. For once, Balla ...more
Nate D
Despite having been composed over 15 years with four or five novels and possibly hundreds of other stories in between, the story cycle that makes up this volume are surprisingly, exquisitely cohesive. Post-war decadence is embodied here in the "recess" a kind of limbo period where unproductive artists dry up in the sun of a kind of desert seashore full of sand reefs and post-modern artworks blending abstraction, surrealism, classicism, and a synesthetic blurring of categories from sound sculptur ...more
Apr 10, 2017 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
J.G. Ballard is one of the most unique, strange writers I've ever read. The first story of his that I read was The Drowned World, which pictures a world that is sinking under water. He wrote that in 1962 and it was one of his earliest books. I next read, The Wind from Nowhere, which pictures mankind forced to live underground to avoid the ever increasing winds that scour the Earth's surface. Even those stories portray his unique writing style, his moodiness, his ability to describe the settings ...more
Rebecca Gransden
Jul 18, 2014 Rebecca Gransden rated it liked it
This is Ballard amped up to eleven. The surreal here is worn like a badge. Direct reference is made throughout to his most obvious touchpoint - Dali. Repetition defines this collection. The same riffs, images, even scenarios, recur; seemingly to cement the impression that Vermilion Sands is self-perpetuating. Latent urges manifest themselves in the physical world. Clothes reveal the inner psyche, sonic sculptures replay voices which mean nothing and everything, and the fabric of the living space ...more
Keith Davis
Nov 26, 2009 Keith Davis rated it it was amazing
If I could spend a weekend in any science fiction world it would be Vermilion Sands. I would not even have to think twice about it. These linked short stories are like jewels that are perfectly arranged to look like they were scattered at random. They are like "Last Year at Marienbad" meets Jack Vance's Dying Earth.
Wow. What an amazing collection of far out stories. So mundane and yet so far out. Sonic Sculptures, Plants that hum and whine Beethoven, Buildings that shift and change according to the moods of it's inhabitants, Wind Sculptures that cut clouds into faces with gliders, pirates that sail the sand seas among sand-rays and crystal groves.

I've never read anything like it.
Dec 16, 2016 Gaby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, favorites
Lo más raro que he leído en mi vida, pero con una visión extremadamente distinta y que te hace imaginar sociedades totalmente extrañas. Esto si es una distopía, y una gran obra de ciencia ficción.
Florin Pitea
Mar 09, 2010 Florin Pitea rated it it was amazing
Surrealist, melancholic and unsettling. An important literary achievement. Unforgettable.
Matt Vickers
May 02, 2009 Matt Vickers rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
J.G. Ballard makes me uncomfortable. In computer animation there is the concept of an uncanny valley. We empathise with and find aesthetically pleasing objects that have human qualities, up until the point that they come close to appearing completely human. It's at this point, where we fixate on the not-human qualities - as with cyborgs, avatars, virtual pop stars - that we reject them. Ballard mines an uncanny valley of psychology, not where the physical appearance of an object is too human, bu ...more
Jan 20, 2008 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I remember this as Ballard's most surreal collection. Every story in it is also in another collection. That's probably an indication that Ballard &/or his publishers think that it's some of his finest stuff. I agree. However, this is one of many instances where I wish GoodReads had at least a 10 star rating system because I don't really equate anything of Ballard's w/, say, James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" but giving it a 3 or a 4 doesn't seem like enuf.
Dec 13, 2012 Bert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I lived in Vermilion Sands. Ballard's future resort is all about malfunctioning machinery, beautiful psychotic muses, and futuro-baroque arts, a place full of has-been movie starlets and artists. Mostly you'd hang out on a balcony and drink beer, you'd probably be suffering from beach lethargy before being briefly disturbed by the troubled but darkly irresistable woman who just moved in next door.
Byron  'Giggsy' Paul
Ballad presents some unique and ultimately strange ideas in this collection. He doesn't give much background to his unique inventions leaving the reader a little confused and wondering if what their imagination came up matches what was in Ballard's mind.
Flavio Matani
Jul 01, 2016 Flavio Matani rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I enjoyed this. Didn't feel the stories or the characters were particularly strong, but the world they're set in made me want to go and visit it.
Apr 08, 2008 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves
Sci-fi that doesn't demote the future to allegory. Exhilarating 'n' melancholy.

*covets cloud sculpture*
Mar 07, 2017 Guttermutter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: techno-skeptics
A collection of short stories replete with the usual mid-career ballardian tropes of strained dialogue and psychologically somewhat stunted characters, worlds whose different nature from ours -- although, are they? Isn't Ballard holding up a surrealist mirror, intensifying and accelerating currently still embryonic or under-the-rug-sweepable ills? -- is never directly addressed and consequently much more striking, and faustian protagonists curiously and unexplainedly enamored by art and technolo ...more
Stefan Grieve
May 20, 2017 Stefan Grieve rated it really liked it
Set on a beach resort in the future, these stories are richly written and sureal. Although all the stories have difterant characters and events, they all have similar ingredients. These include beutifull yet troubled woman (usually mentally ill) a morally suspicious protaganist and a genreal feeling of sureal unease.
With the stories having similar components it sometimes becomes predictable, but it is still enjoyable and well written.
There are some good sci fi ideas here, like computers that wri
Dec 22, 2016 1.1 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Excellent. Each story in this collection is amazingly crafted. They all play out in a bizarre setting that drew me in, and Ballard's voice raked me over the quartz outcrops and sand until the whole strange landscape was almost visible. However, the people and things that fill Vermilion Sands are what make it work so well. Most of them are annoyingly consistent in being about or having as a locus a flighty, unknowable, and potentially crazy woman. But that's a minor complaint when the stories end ...more
David Areyzaga
May 17, 2017 David Areyzaga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You will not find science fiction like this anywhere else. Sentient houses that absorb the emotions and dreams of their uses. Living garments that need care and respect. Singing statues that can invade the entire world. Musical plants. Cloud architects. Automatic writers. This technology beyond anyone's imagination inhabits a world of sand and fallen celebrities in a series of stories about seemingly common people in the most uncommon of worlds. This book gave me a hard time, but it was worth it ...more
Max Mindock
Jun 14, 2017 Max Mindock rated it really liked it
Good collection. All shared a common theme so it was good to read together. his utopia
Sara J.
Now this was an interesting short story collection - definitely something a little different from what I am used to (not that I exactly have an expansive background in reading vintage scifi - haha).

All of them revolve around Vermillion Sands a resort the rich, famous and eccentric populated in it's heyday. Fully automated and full of fantastic retro-future themes and tech with everything being "psychotropic" being the main theme (houses, plants, clothes and whatnot! crazy stuff) - which means t
Artur Coelho
Jun 13, 2010 Artur Coelho rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Não sendo um livro que me seja desconhecido, não resisti a esta nova edição da Penguin. Aquele padrão OpArt na capa, que ganha vivacidade graças a um plástico reticular incluído no livro, atrai o olhar. A colecção em si é daquelas que quer empolar o lado erudito da FC, não apresentando os livros como de ficção científica, mas como futuros vintage. Inclui escritores como Huxley (Admirável Mundo Novo), Zamiatin (We), Atwood (Handmaid's Tale) ou Gilman (Herland). É uma lógica aceitável. Muitas dest ...more
Aug 06, 2016 Yasmeen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never read J.G. Ballard before-- mainly because I always get unpleasant vibes when I pick up his books. I've always had the distinct impression that reading him would feel like chewing sand. And for the first couple of stories, I did actually feel that way. I was leaning towards 3 stars-- enough interesting ideas and things to merit appreciation, but not much of a personal liking. Then I got to "Cry Hope, Cry Fury!" (about halfway through the collection), and something clicked. I've been pr ...more
Jan 31, 2015 Roisin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic book by one of Britain's greatest writers. Vermillion Sands will etch itself in your mind. This unforgettable book is certainly one of my favourites by J G Ballard.

This book is a collection of interconnected stories published in the 1970s which feature the resort Vermillion Sands, a playground for the rich, a 'latter day Palm Springs' full of fading movie stars, heiresses, artists, sculptors, poets, and would be writers in Ballard's psychedelic wonderland.

Each story seems t
Aug 14, 2007 Matt rated it liked it
Imaginative and inventive, wonderfully written, but most of the stories seem infuriatingly melancholic or tragic, and when taken together, it seems that a great deal of them involve an artist protagonist falling in love with an odd celebrity, who leaves after some dramatic episode involving a piece of the protagonist's art.

It's interesting that in the preface, Ballard claims that Vermillion Sands is a response to the unrelentingly grim futures portrayed in other sci-fi novels, and that in this
Oct 25, 2014 sologdin rated it did not like it
Collection of shorts. Setting is future suburb, and stories involve numerous artist-types, mostly involved in the “imperceptible transition beteen the real and the superreal” (53), which is sufficiently baudrillardian for me. Like the art described in one instance, the text here features a “discontinuity [..] responsible for the entire charm and magic […] instead of a mere photographic replica, the movements of the [subject] produced a series of multiple projections, perhaps with analytic forms ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Ankush rated it did not like it
I'm genuinely surprised by the number of positive reviews.

This is a book of short stories, each with essentially the same characters (same in personality and role in the story, not in identity, but this distinction hardly matters) and plot. The characters and plot aren't even interesting.

There's a woman who at one point was beautiful but has lost her beauty but can't get over it, there's the narrator who falls in love with said woman, and then said woman spurns the narrator in an evil way. Usual
Andy Blake
Aug 07, 2012 Andy Blake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling on many levels of consciousness? I don't quite have the words to describe it. The quote on the front cover of this edition summarises it the best for me: "No one else writes with such enchanted clarity or strange power".

Each story is a vivid snapshot of a possible future, glimpsed through a heat haze pierced with the screams of sculptures. Favourite was The Screen Game.

The only beef I have is that the stories are a little similar; you can kind of see what's going to happen with at lea
Oct 25, 2014 Amy rated it liked it

These stories were interesting, if only because Ballard obviously knew his world of Vermilion Sands well and had a great affection for its history. The funny thing was how the stories were all constructed the same way: A male narrator, in a brief opening section like a prologue, describes a moment and implies a woman (always a woman), then implies a crazy situation that happened to I'm previously, like a hook to keep us reading. Then begins the real narration, which I think always involved t
Jess Scott
Oct 14, 2011 Jess Scott rated it it was amazing
Sleek and tranportative writing. Sounds, reads, and feels just like the landscape of the future (which is exactly what it is). Writing showcases graphic (not obscene) and lyrical descriptions with a nice touch of emotional nuances.

I will not be forgetting anytime soon about shopping for a house in Vermilion Sands (in "The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista," a man and his wife hope to be happy in a new home, but its previous owner entangles them in her traumatic life due to the psychotropic features
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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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