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Crash: A Novel Paperback – April 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews Review

J. G. Ballard's graphic, violent novel is controversial wherever it is read, even on's own Web page! The book's characters are obsessed with automobile accidents and are determined to narrate the horrors of the car crash as luridly as possible. In the words of the novel's protagonist, the wounds caused by automobile collisions are "the keys to a new sexuality born from a perverse technology." Read this novel and learn why David Cronenberg, who had previously adapted Dead Ringers and Naked Lunch for the screen, fought to turn it into his latest film.


"In Ballard the dystopia is not hidden under anything. Nor is it (as with so many fictional dystopias) a vision of the future. It is not the subtext. It is the text....The real shock of Crash is that technology has entered into even our most intimate human relations....There is always this mix of futuristic dread and excitement, a sweet spot where dystopia and utopia converge."—Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books

"A work of very powerful originality. Ballard is among our finest writers of fiction."—Anthony Burgess
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374524122
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374524128
  • Product Dimensions: 0.1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,227,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Ballard's prose is beautiful in a dark, grimey kind of way and I loved it.
Once again, however, I find that a full-length novel by Ballard has only enough plot for a short story.
I think it's been a very long time since I've read a book that BORED me this much.
a girl

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have only been aware of this book since the movie was released in 1996. It is amazing that this was actually published almost 30 years ago. I'd love to know how it was recieved back then. This is the 3rd Ballard book I've read (Atrocity Exhibition and Concrete Island, were the other 2). He is interested/obsessed with the dehumanizing effect that modern technology is having on the human race.
This is one "icky" read. If you're revolted by textbook-like discussion of body fluids, trauma wounds, and pathologically self-absorbed human beings...stay away. The character Ballard's obsession with Gabrielle's scars from her accident was the most vivid and disturbing image that I will take away from this book...yecch. For all the sex (of any and every flavor you'd can imagine, and some you'd best not) it is written so clinically that it isn't very erotic. Indeed, I don't think Ballard (the author) used one four-letter word in the whole story. Now that's quite a feat in a story that averages a sexual coupling (of whatever with what-have-you)every 2-3 pages.
I bought the three books, because Ballard's name kept popping up on my reco list (Thanks, Amazon). The synopses sounded intriguing. I like dark stuff, I guess. What's missing from this work and from "Concrete Island" is humor. For such "out-there" material, Ballard takes everything far too seriously.
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on April 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
There are very few books in existence that I know of which can prepare you for Crash. Nauseatingly disgusting and beautiful at the same time, author Ballard tries to find redemption in technological malaise. This is the first book I've ever read by Ballard, but if his other works are similar to Crash, he should be better known than he is presently. I should also mention that I've never seen the film version of this book. Within a few pages, I realized why Cronenberg made this into a film. Cronenberg has made a name for himself exploring the same bleak landscapes that Ballard apparently works in: namely, the marriage between humanity and technology. Crash shares some attributes with Cronenberg's Videodrome, at least in my opinion. What is interesting is that Cronenberg didn't do a film version of Crash much sooner (Crash was published in 1973).
The second thing that hits the senses while reading Crash is the writing style. Cold, detached medical terms jockey with lovingly descriptive phrases concerning technology. Ballard is a magician with the English language and Crash is a first class spell in the syntax department. The first thing that is noticeable, of course, is the sickeningly gory descriptions of car crashes, wounds and ... sex. Chins will hit the floor over the sheer magnitude of blood and sex within these pages. But this isn't violence for the sake of violence; it is a careful constructed theme showing the awful repercussions that technology has wrought on our lives. ... The characters are dehumanized, without a doubt, but what Crash does is to show how humans are trying to reconnect to their emotions and humanity. That they choose to do so through the very means that has robbed them of it is the paradox.
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125 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on August 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
I've been a fan of J.G. Ballard's ever since I read The Drowned World and The Wind from Nowhere, both dramatic and imposing mood pieces about the end of the world. Ballard's prose has a heavy, sensual languidness to it suited to these dark themes, some of which derives from his unhurried rhythm and pacing. In fact, his prose seems to have an almost oxymoronic, somnolent muscularity and strength--a quality that certain Buddhist statues, which are said to represent "the spirit of strength in repose"--are also said to possess, interestingly enough. (I suspect Ballard himself would be amused by such a recondite association). And as another reviewer here remarked, perhaps his prose is something of an acquired taste.
But getting back to the book, this story about a strange and disturbing subculture that has evolved a sexual obsession and fetish for crashing automobiles is no doubt one of the more bizarre ideas for a novel ever created. The members even go so far as to create and re-enact fatal "classic" car crashes from the past--such as the one that killed James Dean or Jane Mansfield. Its theme also reminded me of the recent movie, the Fight Club, in its idea of a repressed and narcissistic culture of violence that lies just beneath the surface of our otherwise highly polished, technologically advanced society.
Since I also saw the movie, I thought I would comment on it here. I didn't think I was going to like the book or the film originally, even though I'm a fan of Ballard's, but I found I actually liked it a lot despite my initial misgivings. Partly, this was because I happened to hear an interview on the radio where Ballard discussed how he got the idea for the book, and which helped to explain it at least somewhat. Well, maybe. It's still pretty weird.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Chris Cooley ( on October 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
Apparently, quite a few readers might find a reading of Baudrillard's essay on this novel necessary to fully grasp what Ballard is talking about here. This is an existential exploration of life at the end of the 20th century, and how humanity finds meaning (rightly or wrongly) in it's technology. It's a highly complex read, and not for everyone.
One should realize that the sexuality described in the novel is not intended to be erotic, or for that matter "bad", or "destructive", or "dangerous"; it's transcendent. The brilliance of the work lies in Ballard's ability, like Burgess in _A Clockwork Orange_, to subvert the reader's feelings toward the subject matter, so that in the end one begins to actually understand -- even sympathize with -- the characters' behavior.
Ballard's prose here is, well... classic Ballard: languid, fever-dream language, which would act as a suitable substitute for LSD. He has one of the most unique "voices" I've ever come across, and is certainly an acquired taste, in relation to other, more mainstream (i.e., mostly unimportant) SF authors. Take a bite, though, and you may find yourself addicted.
_Crash_ is the literary equivilent of a brick to the head. I loved it.
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