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The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard
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The Drowned World

by J. G. Ballard

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2,007405,049 (3.47)160
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» See also 160 mentions

English (38)  Italian (2)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
This post-apocalyptic novel envisions a world that is heating, in the not-so-distant future. Only the polar areas are inhabitable, populations have plummeted, temperatures risen, lizards have taken over, Triassic-like plants are everywhere, much of the world is flooded. Solar flare storms, not global warming, are the cause as briefly explained.

The descriptions of the flora and fauna in this book are great--and I think Jeff Vandermeer appreciates them as well, as it feels so similar to Annihiliation (though the stories are very very different).

I found the story itself to be the weak point. A military research crew and a random woman are surviving in London on old stores, lizards, the last of the fuel, and some a/c. They need to abandon or risk the still rising heat and coming storms. Most go. Then a scavenging crew--the white captain Strangman and his African crew arrive. The descriptions of these men and their power structure are dated and uncomfortable. Their goal is unclear to the reader and Dr Kerans. And it still is to me, even after I finished. ( )
  Dreesie | Jan 7, 2019 |
I can see why Ballard has fans. The setting is great, vivid and effective. Tnat earned three stars from me. However, the plot feels dated and the characters were impossible to connect with.. I have never been a fan of this style of psychological sci fi. I also found it annoying that the only female character was purely decorative. Still, the drowned city swallowed up by swamp, vines, and crocodiles made it worth the read. ( )
  JanetNoRules | Sep 17, 2018 |
A good, well-written and exciting read once I got into it, and quite topical because of global warming, which was not such an issue when the book was written in the early 1960s. It is set in an undetermined* future (a future seen from the 1960s - there is a Woolworths, communications in Morse, no computers, people listed to records and tapes); sun disturbance means the daytime peak temperature is around 150 degrees. We are in London - Leicester Square to be more precise, which is now a lagoon, only the top floors of buildings standing proud. Dr Kerans, born in Greenland where most of the surviving population has fled, is working on a research station moored in the lagoon but has chosen to live in a suite in the Ritz, furnished for a financier from Milan. Somehow he has supplies, electricity, a freezer, weaponry, and a lover - Beatrice Dahl who has decided to live alone in her grandfather's penthouse apartment also overlooking in the lagoon. Does she have a boat or does she spend all her time sunbathing on her balcony? I found her a rather vague character, is she part of the scientific team? I did have to suspend belief quite a lot and found myself questioning motives and behaviour - when it is so hot, would you really wear a suit and wonder if you should put on a jacket? As the vegetation luxuriates and the insect and reptile fauna proliferates, the few human characters experience vivid dreams that suggest regression into primeval times. When time comes for the scientists to return to base in the north, Kerans decides to stay behind. Why? he vaguely refers to the more organized, military life back home. Excitement comes with the arrival of a boat-casino manned by the megalomaniac pirate Strangman in a white suit, and his crew, intent on looting furniture and jewellery and holding parties. He gets pumps working to drain the lagoon. And I shall stop there, with all my questions unresolved.

*Have now seen on wiki that it is set in 2145 but I don't know where this date comes from - I'll have to look at the beginning again. ( )
1 vote overthemoon | Feb 1, 2018 |
Wonderfully imaginative and bizarre novel about the psychological disintegration of the ain character. ( )
  brakketh | Mar 11, 2017 |
Very far on the pulpy end of Ballard's œuvre, which is not a bad thing on its own, but this one also suffers for a few other reasons: we know a lot more about the potential effects of global warming now than in 1961, and the lagoony Triassic-redux world that Ballard imagines is compelling on its own terms and a good setting for the psychodrama of human regression to a Triassic state that Ballard envisions, but it's not at all realistic, which makes a goat of the hard-SF conventions that Ballard tries here to embrace and then play off of; then also, if the novel's goal is to explore the state of the psyche post-apocalypse, surely what we must be most concerned about is the fact that we did it, we blew it up (we maniacs), whereas Ballard uses sunspots as his plot device--considerably less interesting than the guilty reality. And while the regression Kerans undergoes from positivist biologist to heat-hypnotized rodent, more or less, is a fascinating one, and the high stagecraft of the settings--the lagoon full of crocodiles, the underwater ballroom, the drained and crusty Leicester Square seething with the stench of life and the squelch of rot, it's undermined by the dynamic Ballard sets up between the whites (in their different ways, dashing colonial men of action, the kind who were just then completing their march into history had Ballard only noticed) and Strangman's black crew (grunting, servile apes, no doubt affected like everyone else by the encroachment of sun and furze and perhaps you can hang their depiction on that as a regression too, but given the way they gambol and hoot (words deployed liberally include "bongos," "dusky," "paw," etc., and is there a carefully ambiguous gang rape scene you better believe there's a carefully ambiguous gang rape scene) and set Kerans up as a kind of kitschy African-style Fisher King with a crocodile head ... nope, we can only conclude that they are here as a missing link, lower humans who OH BIG IRONY slip into the steamy future JUST LIKE THE JUNGLES OF THEIR YOUTH and retain their humanity better than the thoroughbred Brits. And that's all bullshit, and I think redolent of the pulp conventions of its time but surely not of the broader culture, anymore? Dispiriting especially because at first Kerans is described several times as "ebony" and you think this book is gonna be forwardthinking but nope it's just a suntan. Same thing goes for the token woman, and her musky breasts, and the way she gets covered in jewels and desultorily takes on the sun goddess role ... basically when this book views regression as something akin to an actual pruning of higher neural functions and an embrace of buried instinct, and tries to imagine what kind of re-enchantment of the world might come from re-entering the mindset of a small beast, it has good moments, but more often it seems to view "savagery," and the kind of cartoonish tooth-flashing bestiality that implies, as a waystation to that latter regression, and that goes along with the unfortunate door-closing choices Ballard made in the way he set up the climate change–driven end of civ to make this seem a not super successful period piece at present. ( )
1 vote MeditationesMartini | Feb 15, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ballard, J. G.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amis, MartinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boswell, JamesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
French, DickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffiths, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Groot, RuurdCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollis, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Körber, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pelham, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Self, WillIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stoovelaar, FrankCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thole, C. A. M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiskott, IngeTranslatorsecondary 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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:30 -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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