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War Fever by J.G. Ballard

War Fever (1990)

by J.G. Ballard

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Ballard is his own category. In this his last collection of stories before his death in 2009, he wrote of contemporary themes (endless warfare, environmental catastrophe, reality as media spectacle) with the surreal satire and bent black humor that marks his best work. As always he kept open vast dark spaces that readers can fill with their own intimations of delirium or dread; it’s easy to imagine a spooky carnival-music background to abandoned strip-malls and faux-wood paneled motel rooms, or the weeds and graffiti and broken machine parts behind the control tower. Ballard seems to have had a late-life preoccupation with astronauts psychologically bruised by distortions of space and time—Einstein’s relativity as an affliction. The most intriguing bits here are also the least ordinary: “Answers to a Questionnaire” (just the answers), “Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown” (consisting of a single 18-word footnoted sentence), and “The Index” to an apparently suppressed biography.

Taking advantage of the unsuspected political asset represented by the President’s bodily functions, the White House staff decided to issue their medical bulletins on a weekly basis. Not only did Wall Street respond positively, but opinion polls showed a strong recovery by the Republican Party as a whole. By the time of the mid-term Congressional elections, the medical reports were issued daily, and successful Republican candidates swept to control of both House and Senate thanks to an eve-of-poll bulletin on the regularity of the Presidential bowels.

Bitter American Extra Pale Ale
Mayflower Spring Hop Ale
  MusicalGlass | Apr 27, 2012 |
Great collection of more accessible Ballard stories. ( )
  perfectleft | Dec 31, 2008 |
Ballard is incomparable. Back in the early 60's you could read in the British SF magazine "New Worlds" some boring story about rockets and aliens, or you could read Ballard's disturbing dystopian visions, such as the superb "The Voices of Time". Ballard has probably run out of things to say now, but this collection is worth reading for the brilliant final story in this collection, which is an index to an autobiography of a seminal figure in late 20th century life, a sort of T.E. Lawrence born 30 years later. He was an astronaut, was at Yalta with Stalin, gave Churchill brain surgery,... This person (unnamed) was imprisioned by the authorities on the Isle of Wight (where is not made clear), and this index to the autobiog. is the only surviving trace of a personage who appears to have been totally erased from history. Brilliant stuff, worthy of Borges himself.

I've just had a horrible thought, was it Buckaroo Banzai's autobiog? (only joking!)
  celephicus | Oct 12, 2008 |
J.G. Ballard a dystopian with one very, very dry sense of humor. The future isn't the bestiality of "1984" or the state mandated hedonism of Huxley's vision. Rather it comes from the constant tidal pressure of creeping suburbia puncuated with moments of surreal violence sputtered out of a TV set. Kind of like life. I recommend it highly ( )
  gregtmills | Jun 6, 2007 |
Showing 4 of 4
The soi-disant index, the last item in this volume of short stories, is veritable fiction itself, or a component thereof. It is preceded by a page-long 'Editor's note', claiming:
'The text printed below is the index to the unpublished and perhaps suppressed autobiography of Henry Rhodes Hamilton', and speculating, 'Is it a disguised roman a clef in which the fictional hero exposes the secret identities of his historical contemporaries?'. The five-page soi-disant index then includes
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Hazel K. Bell (Aug 5, 1997)
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Chiang Kai-shek ... implements land-reform proposals by HRH; employs HRH as intermediary with Chou En-Lai
Churchill, Winston ... spinal tap performed by HRH ... attacks HRH in Commons debate
Darwin, Charles ... repudiated by HRH
Einstein, Albert ... deathbed confession to HRH
Eliot, T. S.... suppresses dedication of Four Quartets to HRH
Freud, Sigmund ... admits despair to HRH
Nobel Prize, HRH nominated for, 220, 267, 342, 375, 459, 611
Paul VI, Pope ... deplores messianic pretensions of HRH; excommunicates HRH
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374525765, Paperback)

A war-ravaged Beirut is the setting for the title story of this visionary collection, a tale in which a young street fighter inadvertently discovers how to bring an to the bloodshed only to find that his solution is all too effective as far as some supposedly neutral observers are concerned. Other stories feature an assassination plot against an American astronaut, the leader of an authoritarian religious movement; a man who is destroyed by a car crash and resolves never to leave his apartment again; and the survivor of a toxic-waste ship wrecked on a deserted Caribbean island.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:10 -0400)

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