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The drowned world by J. G. Ballard

The drowned world (edition 1968)

by J. G. Ballard

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1,465255,100 (3.49)98
Title:The drowned world
Authors:J. G. Ballard
Info:Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1968, c1962.
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction

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The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard

  1. 10
    Freakangels, Volume 5 by Warren Ellis (djryan)
  2. 00
    The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both are about a post-apocalyptic flooded world.

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
The Drowned World is now 50 years old, and it's starting to feel a little long in the tooth. The technology and worldview seems dated, although it's interesting to view the book as an alternate take on the post-apocalyptic science fiction that was emerging at the time. While A Canticle For Leibowitz and On The Beach were focused on life after nuclear war, Ballard's work is set in London after an ecological catastrophe that returns Earth to a Triassic-like state.

Where the book excels is the rich, language that evokes fantastic scenes and emotional states. Long after I had finished the book, these scenes echoed in my mind, such as the visit to the sunken planetarium and the draining of Leicester Square. I have found some of his short stories to be similarly rich, and even Empire Of The Sun to have the ability to evoke particular scenes in the mind's eye. ( )
  in30minutes | Sep 25, 2014 |
Good writing, great atmosphere,....but weak plot. ( )
  DCBlack | Jul 23, 2014 |
I'm very fond of this book. It's right up there with "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen" as a book that spawned a host of imitations, and even proved to have some influence on the world of climate science. It certainly seems prescient, with regards to today and our problems. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Feb 22, 2014 |
The post apocalyptic genre is modern these days - everyone in the speculative fiction field seems to have an idea or three and the number of works being written is staggering. And most of those are concentrating on the cases where humanity brings the problems on its own. The roots of the genre are not exactly the same though - a lot of the classic novels that deal with the end of humanity are a lot more chilling.

In Ballard's "The Drowned World" the world as we know it is over but not because humanity did something wrong. Solar flares in the near future start the rise of the temperatures which leads to the melting of the permafrost and the ice and the changed surface of the world. But Ballard does not just presume that oceans will overrun the world - he accounts for the sludge and soil and the rivers will carry and the fact that the oceans will be as suffocated and displaced as the dry surface.

The novel opens just a few generation after the changes started (and one of the main characters had lived in the world before the floods and the rising temperatures) and humanity is already stuck in the old Arctic and Antarctic regions. Two types of people are still roaming the drowned world - the biologists, supported by military escorts that are trying to map the changes and understand what is happening to the flora and fauna, maybe discovering what will happen to the people as well in the near future; and the marauders - because this is the human way - when there is destruction and left property, there will be marauders.

The main character of the novel is one of the biologists - Kierans, who is sent to a city he had never heard of (which turns out to be London) and who has as a company an old colleague (the same one that had been born in London before the floods), a military escort and a beautiful woman (the only woman we ever hear of) who they found in one of the still standing above ground buildings. No, the story does not turn into a love story - because what Ballard decides to paint is not just the picture of the collapsing world (which is masterfully done) but also what happens in the human mind when this happens -- can humanity stay the same if the world around it changes. Written in the 60s, the portrayal of the women and the non-white races is expected even if it is a bit shocking for a reader in the 21st century. But at the same time, being written when it was, the novel re-delegates anyone that is not a white male to the position of a secondary character (with the woman becoming a damsel in distress sooner or later of course).

What makes this novel stand out is the fact that Ballard accepts the fact that humanity had not lost everything from its past and that when the climate changes to emulate a long forgotten one, our cells retain the memory and try to push it out into the conscience. How scientifically valid this is is not clear even to this day. But it makes for a great premise of a novel written with the masterful pen of Ballard. Even the arriving marauder and his crew does not change the tone of the story -- despite of what is happening around them, the inner world of the characters is what drives the story. The refusal of one of the main characters to accept that the changes can be reversed, even temporarily and the world to revert to what it was (or close enough) is deep into what can only be accepted as psychosis because of the human mind inability to accept that many changes.

The novel is a story on the drowned world. It is not attempting to find a solution or to find a way to save humanity. Nor it tries to find a way to save our characters - some will die, some will fail off the page and never be heard of (and some will reemerge out of nowhere to serve their purpose one more). The journey that begins at the start of the novel, the one through the minds of humanity, never ends. And it cannot end. The slice of time that we see in the novel is exactly this - a story that can go in either way. And yet - the novel is finished - the world is painted and the humanity has its choices - a few more than when the novel started but the world is still drowned and the humanity is on the verge of extinction.

It is an interesting novel - although I suspect that a lot of people will not like it. It does not have a real plot (at least not one where people do things) but at the same time it is a very coherent and chilly narrative. And even if it is written more than 50 years ago, it is as valid as back then (with some notes as mentioned above) - its main core remains (and will probably remain) a stark warning of what may happen... and what we cannot change no matter what. ( )
6 vote AnnieMod | Jan 12, 2014 |
Ballard's best of his apocalyptic novels. Shades of Conrad's Heart of Darkness abound. ( )
  CarmeloRafala | Jun 3, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. G. Ballardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
French, DickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffiths, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Groot, RuurdCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollis, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelham, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stoovelaar, FrankCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Soon it would be too hot.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007221835, Paperback)

When London is lost beneath the rising tides, unconscious desires rush to the surface in this apocalyptic tale from the author of Crash and Cocaine Nights. Set in the near future, the ice caps have melted and the planet basks in an unendurable heat. London is a primordial swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows up the walls of the Ritz and there are unconfirmed sightings of primeval reptiles swimming through the newly-formed lagoons. Some flee the capital; others embark on harebrained schemes to drain the submerged streets in search of treasure. But Dr Robert Kerans has come to accept this submarine city and finds himself strangely resistant to the idea of saving it...

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:38 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Fluctuations in solar radiation have caused the icecaps to melt and the seas to rise. Nature is on the rampage. London has been transformed into a primeval swamp, and within its submerged landscape giant lizards, dragonflies and insects compete for dominance. Human fertility is in decline and buildings sink beneath waters infested with decaying matter. Into this wasteland a group of intrepid scientists venture to record the flora and fauna of this new Triassic Age. Soon ghostly voices haunt their waking and nightmares permeate their sleep."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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