Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Drowned World

J.G. Ballard's "The Drowned World" is set in a future where our sun has entered an intense phase of solar flare activity, causing the temperature to rise on Earth, polar ice caps to melt, end of civilisation, yadda yadda yadda. You know how this sort of thing works. Ballard captures the atmosphere of intense heat, and the lethargy and disinterest it causes in his characters really well. So well, in fact, that the lethargy and disinterest proved contagious and I was bored stupid throughout the book.

It was written in the early sixties, and it is showing its age. The geophysics is a bit dodgy - the sun is pumping out lots more heat and energy, and yet the climate only gets hotter. There should have been high winds, constant storms from all that warm air expanding. The female character is utterly pointless, having no opinions or ability to think for herself. She's just a device to give the hero something to do. The characters are all very British, with stiff upper lips, having dinner parties for which one is required to dress. In the steaming jungle. Dinner jackets and bow ties. In the steaming fucking jungle.

I stuck with it to the end, hoping something would happen. It didn't. The only other book by Ballard I've read was Cocaine Nights, which left me feeling much the same: nothing happened, and it took a lot of tedious mucking about getting there. James, over at Big Dumb Object, has also reviewed this book recently - he was a (little) bit more forgiving than me, so maybe I just didn't get it.


  1. I appreciated the writing, but do agree generally with you, I just phrased it slightly less to the point!

    Still, you've got to admire a book where the main characters lethargy rubs off on the reader...that's evocative.

  2. I've got plenty of lethargy of my own, I don't need any more :)