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The Crystal World by J. G. Ballard
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The Crystal World (1966)

by J. G. Ballard

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9182014,495 (3.57)20
Recently added bySandorS, private library, inpariswithyou, JLMeads, atomoton, Shirokanedai, jonas_NK, buruburu, bookstopshere, ericandsue
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English (17)  Italian (2)  Romanian (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This review from PeterCrump exactly captures how I feel about this book--and he rated it the same as me.
"A novel of imagery and metaphor rather than story or character. Ballard is on top hallucinogenic form, his somewhat passive protagonists adrift in an African jungle crystallizing mysteriously around them. The Ballard leitmotifs of entropy and decay are starkly present, but it's the feverish fecundity of the crystal world that takes centre-stage with its arresting images of psychedelic mineral-animal-human hybrids." ( )
  unclebob53703 | Apr 29, 2017 |
A novel of imagery and metaphor rather than story or character. Ballard is on top hallucinogenic form, his somewhat passive protagonists adrift in an African jungle crystallizing mysteriously around them. The Ballard leitmotifs of entropy and decay are starkly present, but it's the feverish fecundity of the crystal world that takes centre-stage with its arresting images of psychedelic mineral-animal-human hybrids. ( )
1 vote PeterCrump | Mar 10, 2017 |
Flawed as this short little novel is, I weep that our ideal time for a cinematic adaptation of it is past, for I can think of no team who could do it justice as Peter Greenaway and Sacha Vierney could have, and they don't work together anymore. But their mastery of light in cinema, especially as demonstrated in Drowning By Numbers and A Zed and Two Noughts, could alone bring Ballard's exquisite vision to the screen.

And there, I would love to see it. And Greenaway could maybe pep up the story a little.

I mention this because the play of light on the surfaces of the slowly (and sometimes not-so-slowly) transforming surfaces of the jungles in The Crystal World is very, very important. Very. Description of same makes up the bulk of its verbiage. Ballard, perhaps mesmerized by the very idea of his creation, took great pains to share its every sparkly, shiny, spiny detail. As such, there is some seriously gorgeous prose to be had in this book, and thus much enjoyment, if that is your thing.

It's possibly the first book ever for which one wishes one had sunglasses for one's mind's eye.

Dazzling as the book is -- and not just visually; the scientific explanation for how and why this is happening, involving theories about sub-atomic particles and space-time that I do not feel adequate to explaining here, is also quite dazzling -- it's also one of the most melancholy reads I've encountered since, say The Road. For there are some people, including a band of lepers led by the protagonist's ex-lover, want to be crystallized. To be crystallized is to have time, and thus the progress of the disease, stop; to be alive but to cease decaying. The fact that nothing else will ever happen to them again is just by the bye. Like the characters of Ballard's The Drowned World, most of this novel's cast comprises people half in love with death, or at least with the destruction of the human world and the seductive chance it offers them to be something else.

Combine this with yet another Conradian quest (Ballard must have had an even bigger boner for Conrad than your humble reviewer does), up an African river, seeking a long-lost companion who has gone nuts in the jungle, and you almost have a really great novel. But somehow, perhaps its the extreme disinterest Ballard, and thus this reader, has in the characters peopling his frosty landscapes, perhaps it's just the depressing nature of all of this beauty, paging through this slim little novel felt like more of a chore than a delight. I'd still recommend it to anyone who values imagination and perfect prose, but with the caveat that such joys come with a price, and in this case, it's story. Ah, me. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Without warning or meaning, the physical world begins to crystallize. Living material mineralizes into a hybrid state that is not life or death.
"... they all craned forward, staring at the line of jungle facing the white-framed buildings of the town. The long arc of trees hanging over the water seemed to drip and glitter with myriads of prisms, the trunks and branches sheathed by bars of yellow and carmine light that bled away across the surface of the water, as if the whole scene were being reproduced by some over-active Technicolor process. The entire length of the opposite shore glittered with this blurred kaleidoscope, the over lapping bands of color increasing the density of the vegetation, so that it was impossible to see more than a few feet between the front line of trunks.
"The sky was clear and motionless, the sunlight shining uninterruptedly upon this magnetic shore, but now and then a stir of wind crossed the water and the scene erupted into cascades of color that rippled away into the air around them. Then the coruscation subsided, and the images of the individual trees reappeared, each sheathed in its armor of light, foliage glowing as if loaded with deliquescing jewels." pg. 75-76

One action that can reverse this abnormal crystallization is to expose what has mineralized to actual gem-stones grown the geologically slow, natural way:
"Handfuls of looted stones were scattered across the pavement, ruby and emerald rings, topaz brooches and pendants, intermingled with countless smaller stones, ruby and emerald rings, topaz brooches and pendants, intermingled with countless smaller stones and industrial diamonds. The abandoned harvest glittered coldly in the moonlight.
"As he stood among the stones Sanders noticed that the crystal outgrowths from his shoes were dissolving, melting like icicles exposed to sudden heat. Pieces of the crust fell away and deliquesced, vanishing into air." pg 175

A mystery of the space-time continuum.
  Mary_Overton | Dec 10, 2014 |
boring amd hard to get through. ( )
  bmdenny | Apr 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
J. G. Ballardprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ebell, RobertCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ernst, MaxCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goodfellow, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Groot, RuurdCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marsh, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Above all, the darkness of the river was what impressed Dr. Sanders as he look out for the first time across the open mouth of the Matarre estuary.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374520968, Paperback)

J. G. Ballard’s fourth novel, which established his reputation as a writer of extraordinary talent and imaginative powers, tells the story of a physician specializing in the treatment of leprosy who is invited to a small outpost in the interior of Africa. Finding the roadways blocked, he takes to the river, and embarks on a frightening journey through a strange petrified forest whose area expands daily, affecting not only the physical environment but also its inhabitants.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:07 -0400)

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On his way into the African jungle to visit his friends, Dr. Sanders becomes increasingly aware of the forest's bizarre petrification.

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