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Concrete Island: A Novel Paperback – October 5, 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (October 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031242034X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312420345
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Visionary of both style and substance . . . the literary equivalent of Salvador Dalí or Max Ernst."—The Washington Post Book World

"Ballard's novels are complex, obsessive, frequently poetic, and always disquieting chronicles of nature rebelling against humans, of the survival of barbarism in a world of mechanical efficiency, of ethropy, anomie, breakdown, ruin . . . The blasted landscapes that his characters inhabit are both external settings and states of mind."—Luc Sante

About the Author

J. G. Ballard is the author of numerous books, including Empire of the Sun, the underground classic Crash, and The Kindness of Women. He is revered as one of the most important writers of fiction to address the consequences of twentieth-century technology. His latest book is Super-Cannes. He died in 2009.

More About the Author

Born in Shanghai in 1930, J. G. BALLARD is the author of sixteen novels, including "Empire of the Sun," "The Drowned World," and "Crash." He lived in London until his death in April 2009.

Customer Reviews

The characters were drawn shallow and sometimes fake.
Erik Hermansen
I was anxious to read this book because I heard that it was going to be made into a movie, but became horribly bored after the book went no where.
Shoe lover
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read good brain stimulating fiction.
Lewis Woolston

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Tensegrity Dan on January 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Gosh, I hate to see this great, little book slammed or passed over because people were unaware of what they were getting themselves into when they bought it.
Some of the negative or lukewarm reviews are correct in that those readers obviously did not like certain elements of the book, notably the lack of logical narrative progression or fuller character development but they are mistaken to consider these peculiarities of style as deficiencies worthy of criticism. This book is not intended to be a straightforward adventure story or a character driven drama, or even a novel with some surrealistic elements.
Concrete Island, like Ballard's most popular book Crash, is a novel length exploration of abstract concepts wrapped in a traditional narrative format. Consider Ballard's earlier, short science-fiction stories, where a characters' specifics are more or less incidental to the situations in which they are placed. Or his later short works where characters are no more than conceptual cyphers or sometimes just a specific instance of a notional character spanning across several stories.
With that in mind, the events and settings are supposed to be surreal and incomplete. The characters are supposed to be unrealistic and uni-dimensional. You aren't supposed to identify with anyone or anything, at least not physically, and then only to the extent that you might become aware of forces acting in your own life or impulses in your own psyche which these fantastical situations and characters represent.
So if you are familiar with Ballard's other work, or are interested in Ballard but want something a bit more approachable than, say, Crash or Atrocity Exhibition, then you will really enjoy Concrete Island - its relatively tight and fast moving, much more fleshed out than his shorter works with plenty for your brain to chew on for a while, but without frying your mind as much the Ronald Reagan-Liz Taylor psychosexual stuff.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bob Burton( on November 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
Our physical nightmares nowadays are usually imposed from the outside: terrorism, plagues, stray asteroids, footloose vampires, these are the agents of horror. Another literary thread--starting, I suppose, with Poe, continuing through Ambrose Pierce, and going on to William Golding--deals with the nightmares we can create for ourselves, in isolation or in small groups. With "Concrete Island," first published in 1973, J.G. Ballard carries forward this latter tradition, but in a postmodern environment of superhighways, abandoned outbuildings, and rippling plains of weeds. The book itself is as constricted and airless as the story it tells, and won't be to everyone's taste. But if your appetite is whetted, read "Concrete Island." Ballard is a master of his genre.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Andersen TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
A Londoner who has spent his adult life trying to disconnect from those around him finds himself lost in the middle of the city. Robert Maitland is a successful architect, who feels stifled at home with his wife but is unable to commit to his lover. He has self-consciously arranged things at work so that he wouldn't be missed if he left for a while. So when he finds himself stranded, marooned, in the grassy junkyard median between three overlapping highways, he knows it's up to him to find his way out. Initially his injuries prevent him from climbing the steep embankment or the high fence that surrounds his little island. He is injured further when he tries to flag a passing vehicle during rush hour, and then it is a question of survival. Before long, he discovers that leaving is not at the top of his list of concerns.

There are clear (and quite deliberate) parallels with Robinson Crusoe, but this is very much a modern novel of alienation, that highlights the longing for isolation, solace, and self-sufficiency in a world where we are utterly dependent on others and on technologies; where we seem to be connected in so many ways, but are in fact bound by these connections, both alienated and enslaved. If that sounds heady, the novel isn't. Ballard's art is almost effortless, and he depicts the ironies of modern life, ostensibly liberated by technology and commerce, in simple and subtle ways. This was the book I happened upon as a late introduction to the late J.G. Ballard, and I found it to live up to his strong reputation as a high concept novelist of provocative pulp fiction. I'll definitely read more.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sean Payne on June 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ballard's universe is a cruel, airless and peculiarly British place, even when his dramas occur in an unspecific everywhere, a generalized Euro-city on the edge of decay. I looked forward to reading "Concrete Island" as it sounded so preposterous, and therefore possessing one of the qualities of Ballard's best stories. Reading him at his best is thrilling, like watching a circus performer on a tightrope. You're aware how precarious it must be keeping everything in the air and stable, yet also appreciating the secret art of it, aware that it's supposed to look hard. The illusion doesn't quite succeed here. It is not quite the masterpiece "Crash" was, though it does share many of that books disturbing themes. He describes a world exactly like our own, yet drained of empathy and common purpose. People, like the figures who populate the "island", scratch about to survive, forced to compete violently and self-destructively for resources while the rest of us, oblivious, rush off to appointments or home for dinner. This is one of the most obviously and persuasively political of Ballard's books. It is however a pity, and a familiar limitation of his writing (and SF generally) that at no time do the characters transcend their function in the novel's machinery and step out to become fully formed creations. He is a writer of images and ideas, obsessively visual and descriptive, but oddly lacking in the ability to give his characters independant existence.
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