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The Drowned World

by J. G. Ballard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Elemente (Wasser)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,776675,215 (3.42)220
"The Drowned World imagines a terrifying world in which global warming has melted the ice caps and primordial jungles have overrun a tropical London. Set during the year 2145, this novel follows biologist Dr. Robert Kearns and his team of scientists as they confront a cityscape in which nature is on the rampage and giant lizards, dragonflies, and insects fiercely compete for domination."--Provided by publisher.… (more)
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» See also 220 mentions

English (64)  Italian (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (67)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
"Is it only the external landscape which is altering? How often recently most of us have had the feeling of deja vu, of having seen all this before, in fact of remembering the swamps and lagoons all too well."

We're in the future world of 2145 where rapid climate change (caused not by carbon emissions as we now know, but by solar flares) has melted the ice caps and covered most of the world in water. On the little remaining land, tropical jungles flourish, as well as many threatening reptilian and insect species. A group of scientists attached to a floating military base located at what was once London is engaged in studying the environment and cataloguing all the new flora and fauna. Life is difficult, and temperatures are well into the 100's by early morning each day.

Because of some rapidly changing conditions moving up from the equator toward their location, the military decides to pull back to where most of humanity have relocated in the arctic. Two of the scientists decide to stay behind, as does a woman who had never left. For some reason, I found this book hard-going, and it took me a couple of months to read, as I kept picking up other books. Rather than a conventional novel of character development and/or plot, it focuses on the philosophical and becomes Jungian. People begin having recurrent similar dreams--are they remembering something from the ancient beginnings of humankind? There is much discussion about the rapid climate change changing the subconscious memories of all humanity. I can't really say I understood much of this. One Amazon reviewer described this as a book considering the "long-term psychiatric implications" of apocalyptic change.

I usually find J.G. Ballard an interesting writer, and this was no exception. It just wasn't terribly engaging to me. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Dec 28, 2023 |
Well, it's not aged terribly well. The setting is terrifying and feels alarmingly realistic today. However, the characters' motivations are unfathomable, there's some problematic racial tropes, and given the ending I'm guessing Ballard wasn't that familiar with the concept of wet-bulb temperature. Still, I found it entertaining. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Sep 8, 2023 |
Earth reverts back to the Triassic age in Ballard's unforgettable The Drowned World. Published in 1962 and now part of the science fiction masterwork series. I read this as a teenager and picking it up today nearly sixty years later, it all came flooding back; the lagoons and the claustrophobic, melancholic atmosphere, the feeling of impotency, powerlessness and an eventual bowing to the inevitable; unforgettable. Ballard's hero Kerans struggles to make sense of the changing world, he withdraws from the small unit of men charged with charting the overheating climate, he tries to come to terms with his ecoanxiety, tries to adapt, tries to embrace the situation, almost welcomes being overwhelmed. A strange kind of hero, but he fits Ballard's world like a glove.

The change to the climate in this novel is nothing to do with man. Prolonged solar storms have led to a deterioration in the earths ionosphere and solar radiation has bombarded earth resulting in overheated tropical climates. Only the artic circle has a temperate climate, but the temperatures are continuing to rise and while scientists have predicted an end to the solar flares, there is no end in sight yet. The earth has rapidly degenerated to a new Triassic age, which was noted for its rise in sea levels and the appearance of early mammals. The action is situated in London which is now largely underwater and a series of equatorial lagoons forms the new landscape. High rise buildings are keeping their heads above water, but the silt washed down is clogging everything up and creating giant mudbanks. Giant lizards, Iguanas, crocodiles and snakes share the lagoons with a variety of fish; giant mosquitoes, vampiric bats and horse flies are food for early species of birds. Vegetation in the form of giant bushes and trees is taking over all buildings and establishing itself in the newly formed mudflats. In the 70 years since the eruption of the solar flares the animal kingdom has evolved and is teeming with life, while man struggles to keep a foothold.

Kerans is a scientist attached to a small unit led by Riggs on military lines, but chains of command have broken down. Kerans has made a bolt hole for himself in the upper floors of the Ritz hotel and has access to a certain amount of luxury. Beatrice Dahl his sometime lover lives in another luxury apartment block, but oil for cooling systems is beginning to run out and temperatures are unbearable after 10 am. Kerans enjoys spending time on his balcony looking down at the lagoons plotting his day, his duties, but something else is becoming apparent. The psychology of the human mind is changing, people in Rigg's unit are suffering from bad dreams and insanity. Hardman a fellow scientist goes rogue, drawn to travel South towards an even more hostile landscape:

"was the drowned world itself and the mysterious quest for the south, which had possessed Hardman no more than an impulse to suicide an unconscious acceptance of his own devolutionary descent, the ultimate neuronic synthesis of the archeopsychia zero"

This idea of man's mind, his outlook adapting to the changes around him becomes an important theme in the book. The arrival of a pirate crew in the lagoons; looters and psychotics, over halfway through the book threatens to spin the novel in another direction, but Ballard juggles his themes in an exotic mix that is captivatingly satisfying. By todays standards the 160 odd pages of this book would appear concise in world building terms and there is only one female character who does not quite live up to her promise of being a femme fatal; black people are negroes and belong firmly to the pirate band, however this is an early sixties science fiction novel with some fine writing that has not lost its power to amaze and so 5 stars. ( )
1 vote baswood | Jun 26, 2023 |
Not, perhaps, as well known or as often read as it might be, possibly because an opaque, baroque psychological narrative pervades the recounting of events. The setting is brilliantly conveyed: a European city overtaken by a swampy jungle of prehistoric lushness, where the first five storeys of the taller buildings are submerged in foetid lagoons inhabited by swarms of alligators, while gymnosperms invade the roofscape. There is a small cast of characters whose intentions and motivations are sometimes almost stereotypically clear, but more often deeply murky, swirling in fevered dreams under the grotesquely enlarged sun, source of the climate disruption that has driven the remnant of civilization north of the Arctic Circle. The end-point towards which the story reaches is more dissolution than resolution, so it remains unsettling.

I found it odd that, even in a text from 1962, there are signs of that inadequate editorial hand that so annoys the reader of more modern novels. The author confuses semaphore and morse, refers to alligators as amphibians, and misuses "I" for "me", in a manner which grates with the pedantic reader (i.e. me).

MB 20-vi-2023 ( )
1 vote MyopicBookworm | Jun 20, 2023 |
I was immediately reminded of all the science fiction books in my middle and high school library when I read this. Most of the authors and books were from the 50s and 60s...a lot of classic science fiction by authors like Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, etc...but Ballard's themes are more experimental and forward thinking. While the overall story is a good one, and I feel, well written, the stilted "hey old chap" dialogue of the characters was a turn off and there is a lot of sexist dialogue written around the sole female character, Beatrice Dahl.

The dystopian, end-of-civilization scenario of rising seas and waters and overgrown vegetation and drowned cities is one we can certainly relate to today. I found all that interesting and plausible given our continual inability to control climate change. We are in for some real destruction, friends.

I feel like this book is a precursor to movies like Mad Max and novels like Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy. It would be interesting to know if Vandermeer counts this book as an influence. I realized again that J.G. Ballard is the author of Empire of the Sun which is a movie I remember fondly and I think I have seen it more than several times. Yet another book added to my to-read list. ( )
  DarrinLett | Aug 14, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
... wirkt verblüffend modern, während so mancher einst gerühmte Bestseller längst im literarischen Urschlamm versunken ist ...

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ballard, J. G.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amis, MartinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berni, OlivieroCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boswell, JamesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elfer, JulianNarratorsecondary 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
Peterka, JohannIllustratorsecondary 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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"The Drowned World imagines a terrifying world in which global warming has melted the ice caps and primordial jungles have overrun a tropical London. Set during the year 2145, this novel follows biologist Dr. Robert Kearns and his team of scientists as they confront a cityscape in which nature is on the rampage and giant lizards, dragonflies, and insects fiercely compete for domination."--Provided by publisher.

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