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125 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird even for Ballard
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...
Published on August 23, 2002 by Magellan

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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not for everyone...
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...
Published on August 2, 2000 by Amazon Customer


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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Certainly not for everyone..., August 2, 2000
By 
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (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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125 of 151 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird even for Ballard, August 23, 2002
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (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. Anyway, I'll recount the story here for those who missed the interview. It was on National Public Radio.
Ballard said he got the idea from passing a fatal traffic accident where a beautiful women had been killed, and you could see everything from the road as you drove by. The woman's body had ended up mostly nude on the rear deck of the passenger compartment, and he said people were driving by gawking at the scene and rubbernecking, and he suddenly got the idea that the whole thing was very erotic for them despite the obviously tragic circumstances and the woman's untimely death. At that point the link between eroticism, car crashes, and death was made, and he was off and running with his bizzare new story idea.
I thought Spader, Koteas, Unger, and Hunter were excellent in their roles, and that also helped to make an otherwise implausible film more realistic. Of course, it's a David Cronenberg film, so what was I expecting? Well, I was probably expecting lots of weird sex and violence--such as the scene in his Naked Lunch, based on the Burroughs book, where the guy is getting anally raped by an 8-foot high half-human, half-centipede creature (Ballard, take note). Well, I like his movies usually, but this one was pretty weird even for someone with Cronenberg's predilection for darkly disturbing themes, and it certainly stands out as one of the more bizarre films on the theme of sex and violence, or on the relationship between sex and violence.
*Irreverent scientific footnote:
And if humans think their sex has an element of violence in it--they should see how marine flatworms do it. It's called "penis fencing." The flatworms duel it out with their gigantic penises (eat your heart out, John "H." Holmes) and the first one to stab his big sharp dork through the skin of the other implants his sperm, causing the other flatworm to become pregnant and give birth whether he wants to or not. Biologists also think that these flatworms were the first multicellular animals to have sexual reproduction as we know it, which means that sex and violence have been linked ever since its earliest evolutionary origins.
*Irrevent literary footnote:
I was in a bookstore recently, and I opened up a book of Greek plays at random, and this was the first line I saw in a play by Euripides: "We are a group of men with large erections; we roam around the city, we take what we want."
It just goes to show you that those old flatworms and Greeks were on the right track, after all. (Ballard and Cronenberg, take note).
It makes me wonder..
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40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Different, April 14, 2002
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (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. All of the characters that see car crashes as erotic adventure are essentially lost people. Ballard and his wife Catherine engage in mindless affairs and word games because they have lost their humanity, their sense of being. Car crashes give them a means to attempt to assert some form of dominance over technology, and the fact that Vaughan has more scars than any of the others shows that he is much closer to achieving this than any of the others, explaining his hyper sexuality and dominant position in this group of crash aficionados.
Ballard brings the icons of technology into his story as well. Famous people such as Elizabeth Taylor, whom Vaughan wants to die with in a crash, are people most associated with technology. They are the faces we see in film and television, and could be seen as an organic face of technology. To meld with one of these figures in a crash is to go the extra step. Their death adds an extra dimension to the eroticism. It isn't just famous people that can bring this about. The character of Gabrielle is important in this context due to her leg braces and spinal supports. Gabrielle's organic existence, her very energy, is supported by technology. Ballard fantasizes about the metal braces and the special handles she needs in her car, explaining that they open up whole new avenues of eroticism.
Even though I can see the beauty of Ballard's prose work and understand his connections between technology and humans, this in no way means that this book didn't disgust me. My stomach occasionally does slow turns when I think back on a particular passage or event, and driving to work and school occasionally makes me feel queasy. The idea of imitating crash positions during ...intercourse isn't going to win over the chicks, either. This is a book that is tough to read but certainly worthwhile. Be careful about recommending this book to people. Some folks are bound to take it the wrong way.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bloody brilliant., October 19, 1999
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Collision Course, October 2, 2003
By 
Robby Nichols (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (Paperback)
Crash is brutal. There, I said it. Being that it was written over 30 years ago is equally disturbing. The vulgar fantasies that came out of Ballard's head while writing this book continue to astonish me.
There is, in fact, a message that the author is trying to get across. Getting to it is the problem. Do not make the mistake of judging this book by the back cover.
"A classic work of cutting-edge fiction, Crash explores the disturbing potentialities of contemporary society's increasing dependence on technology as an intermediary in human relations."
No doubt about it, J. G. Ballard was ahead of his time. That particular blurb alone has persuaded many to pick this one off the shelves. Inside the book, however, is not exactly the same story. The author doesn't simply explore the effects technology might someday have on society. No, Ballard's vision of the future seems more like an extremely perverted pipe dream.
Of course, that probably was the intention to begin with. The reader is constantly bombarded with violently sexual material, but in an almost scientific method. No slang. Everything presented in black and white. The novel is about as sexy as a prostate exam. So if you are able to see past the explicit content, Crash can be a truly thought-provoking journey even (and possibly more so) in this day and age. Ballard just makes it highly difficult to do so. Therefore, the average reader will most likely be too repulsed to really dig into the plot and see the novel for what it really is.
The other flaw that I noticed while reading Crash were the characters. None of them the slightest bit likeable, the only personality trait I shared with the narrator was his curiosity. However, in the end, it was this that kept me turning the page. Not pondering the subject matter as much as wondering how far off the edge the author was going to go. I was not disappointed. If there is anything close to genius in Crash, it is the author's unparalleled originality. Ballard has an amazingly gifted mind and shifts his wicked imagination to its darkest side here.
No promises, though. As described, Crash is an exploration. Every reader will find something different hiding between the lines of this cult classic. I've mentioned as few specifics as possible on this one. So the book, in it's entirety, is waiting. The only question is... Can you take it?
4 stars + a big warning label.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perspectives on Crash, January 3, 2002
By 
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington (Charleston, SC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (Paperback)
A number of on-line reviewers seem mistaken -- or at least I disagree with them about -- certain key points regarding this masterful novel. First, I have read several times that Crash is the story of the dehumanization of a group of individuals who explore their sexual fetish for car crashes. This is not the book I thought I read. The world of Crash is cruelly objectified; it is a dehumanized world already -- and the background information we are given portrays Ballard and his wife as living jaded, exhausted essentially middle class existences amidst steely urban wonders that no longer fascinate them and a plethora of luxury toys that no longer entice. The narrator's relationship with his wife is habitual, like all his relationships. Their world has stolen their ability to humanly relate to one another. After the narrator's car crash, his developing obsession with the sensuality of crashes eroticizes his dead world.The narrator and the other crashers may degrade themselves, but they do it to break through the tedium of the mechanical world into something more satisfying. The story is bleak, but by the end of the novel, Ballard, his wife and friends have achieved a kind of twisted familial relationship; perverse, by ordinary standards, but more rather than less intimate than what they had before.
I also can't say I am sympathetic to skeptics regarding the book's style, and am curious as to what books they regard as well-written. If Crash isn't exquisitely wrought, sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase, please show me the book that is. The glory of the novel is its poetry, really prose poetry. This can make for difficulty -- but the condensed language of poetry is more beautiful for its initial strangeness, and anyone who enjoys modern poetry should appreciate this book. Ballard resembles Edgar Allen Poe, another prose poet whose work exploits fantastical conceits. The language is driving, insistent, clinically complex and usually grammatical, occasionally veering off into pure surrealist invention. People who write fiction themselves should similarly appreciate how difficult a trick Ballard has "pulled off" for a novelist. The analogy at the core of Crash -- the eroticism of car crashes, the prurient interest of the technological -- is so bizarre and ingenious that the successful realization of the metaphor lifts the book above the level of cleverness and into the stratospheres. Usually stories developed from initial conceits too fantastical are precious at best. The more moon-mad and improbable the fancy, the more arduous the literary task. Ballard has not written a thin, minimalist exercise, but a full blooded novel. Richly atmospheric prose can often stop the forward progress of a plot. Crash is prose poetry and a successful novelistic entertainment, featuring plot, characterization, and action.
The novel pivots around two scenes, both remarkable for their distorted beauty. The scene between Ballard's wife and the couple's friend, Vaughn, a backseat sexual encounter in a car wash, is a sadomasochistic masterpiece, vivisecting the character's emotional lives into a metaphorical landscape of auto parts. There is as much emotion in this scene as in any episode of a daytime soap opera, anxiety, jealousy, affection and fear mostly conveyed through innuendo and imagery, the pulsing of the massive car wash wipers, the sensualized window spray. In the aftermath of watching his wife being brutalized, "beaten up" as much as made love to, the couple come as close as they ever have to articulating themselves emotionally.
For Ballard and the other crashers, technology is sexy because technology can kill. Before they discovered the potential eroticism of the technological world, convenience and sexual excess had rendered their lives as a whole boring and routine. By raising the stakes to preposterous levels, by the sensualizing their habitual surfaces, they become more than dummies -- sex is bodily, and now that they are putting their very bodies at risk they have found possibly their last best chance for salvation from what society has already become.The other pivotal scene is the LSD trip near the end. Let me pay Ballard a peculiar, but deserved complement. This is the only passable literary description of "tripping" that I have ever read. I would quote from the passage at length except I would rather you read the book. Think of Aldous Huxley's (in my opinion) disastrous purple prose meditation, The Doors of Perception, and you will see how masterful a writer Ballard is. Crash's LSD scene is "a trip" linguistically.
The prose isn't laughably incoherent, or absurdly ecstatic. Whereas Huxley commits both the aforesaid crimes, drawing upon so many mystical analogies that they cancel each other out, Ballard achieves more with drastically fewer words. As an artist he recognizes what fiction is best at -- the distilled essence of an experience; the emotional turmoil of a divorce, not the legalistic details; the viscera of war, not the politics; of an LSD trip, the phantasmagoria.
The whole book is one of the most successful analogies for hallucinatory experiences ever transcribed, comparable to the work of Baudelaire, Poe, and the Rimbaud of poems such as "Cities" and "Metropolis" This is saying quite a lot. Like Baudelaire's poems about Satan worshiping, Crash is both about a dehumanized world and, within that world, a terrible, potentially fatal search for new forms of the trancendental.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, good, February 4, 2000
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (Paperback)
Crash is an incredibly strange book. You've probably guessed that already, since it's about people with an erotic fascination for car crashes. The book isn't nearly as disturbing as some people would have you believe - sure, it's controversial, graphic, and a very strange, but it's not as disturbing as you might think.
Ballard's writing style takes time to get used to. Crash probably has, if you put all of it together, about four pages of dialogue, tops. There is very little talking among the characters; most of the story is in the vivid descriptions and elaborate detail. The story has an incredibly amount of detail when it comes to describing the crashes and the sexual fascination that revolves around them.
Which brings me to my next point - what makes this book good isn't necessarily it's plot or characters, as the plot is not incredibly cohesive and the characters are not in any way dynamic (even the twisted "TV scientist" Vaughan can be surprisingly normal at times). What makes this a really slick and cool book is the subject matter, detail and ideas implied. "The keys to a new sexuality born from a perverse technology" is an apt description of the books theme. However, summaries of the book often talk of the character's staging of accidents. This is a red herring; after the characters get into a crash and develop this fascination, most likely they don't crash their cars again. There is much description of the implied sexual elements of vehicle collision and after-effects of it - much detail is paid to the wounds crash victims suffer, probably more than anything else. However, from the first line it is apparent that a principle character died trying to stage a crash.
Crash is a book that after you've read it, you won't forget it. The subject matter is brilliantly thought-provoking and thoroughly strange. The only reason I give it four stars is the lack of plot it has sometimes makes the book difficult to read and understand. It's really more of a four and 1/2. To close: read Crash. Whether you like it or not, you most likely won't regret reading it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The extreme of Ballard's ouevre, October 21, 2004
By 
Sirin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (Paperback)
In his 1995 introduction to 'Crash' Ballard explains that the traditional methods of the writer- linear narrative, examination of the subtle nuances of social behavour and personal relationships in a self-sufficient, self enclosed world with the author, like an examiner, knowing all the questions in advance- are no longer suitable to chronicle the morality and culture of the late 20th Century. Instead, he proposes that, in a sense, the writer knows nothing, has no moral stance and offers the reader the contents of his own head. A set of imaginative postulations, analagous to a scientist offering hypothesis to deal with an unknown terrain.

Given this, one should not expect Crash to be a conventional novel. When it first emerged, the hallucionatory auto-eroticism of the novel, centering around a film maker who becomes transfixed by the erotic experiments that Vaughan, a 'hoodlum scientist' and 'nightmare angel of the expressways' performs on crash victims did not appeal to everyone. The 23 year old Martin Amis described the novel as 'possibly the most extreme example in fiction of how beautiful and lavishly someone can write 70,000 words of vicious nonsense'.

Now, more than 30 years on, the novel has garnered cult status and certainly makes interesting reading for the way Ballard constructs a nightmare world in what Malcom Bradbury of the New York Times described as the 'deprived spaces of modern life' - the motion sculptures of urban expressways and airport surroundings. The prose describes in intense detail the subconcious fixation with car crash aftermaths, linking sex and the technology of the machine in a sinister coagulation of semen and the smells of automobile wreckage. As the characters become increasngly desensitised from the scenes they witness, the sex scenes become less 'sexual' and more natural - Ballard describes the scene when Vaughan maes love to the narrator's wife as following a 'perverse logic'.

The reader becomes drawn into this world, and possibly desensitised to the auto erotic violence too. Then out again on completion of the novel. It is a well written exposition of a sensuous, scarred, nightmare world at the far extremes of our imagination. But that is about the extent of it. There is little content in the novel to retain in the reader's imagination beyond this. So in a sense, 'vicious nonsense' is an apt summary of Crash.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Strangest Novel Ever Written, May 17, 2000
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (Paperback)
Perhaps it is the strangest. Is it good or not? That doesn't really matter.
What the reviewers, both favorable and not, seem to miss is that JG Ballard is a Surrealist. His fiction presents some of the most bizarre and uncanny images and situations in the driest, most matter-of-fact style; in other words, the essence of Surrealist style. He is also an avant-gardeist in that style, interested in the experimental possibilities of the novel. Plot, characters and the usual customs of the novel are not so important to Ballard, and the satisfaction of those elements will not be found in his work, which is more involved with situations and ideas.
"Crash" is not his very best work, but certainly his most controversial. If you have a taste for, or are intrigued by Surrealism, then you should read this novel, whether you end up 'liking' it or not. If you saw the movie and are interested in reading the book, keep in mind the movie was incredibly mild compared to the book. If you are interested in a unique vision of the possibilities of the imagination, especially in the sense that technology can literally transform the human mind and body in a way that hints at the possibility of a new species all together, then read this book.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars perhaps not Ballard's best . . ., June 17, 2000
By 
Beauregard (Lake Charles, LA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Crash: A Novel (Paperback)
...but certainly his most unforgettable. I've read this book several times, and it is still just as disturbing, if not more disturbing, each time I read it. There aren't many books you can say that about. Some of his other books may be better--"Day of Creation," "The Crystal World," and "Unlimited Dream Company" are all marvelous fantasies, written in that same fluid, dreamlike style. But they won't haunt your nightmares like "Crash" will. I think what affected me the most, more than the cold, clinical, but still erotic sex scenes or the terrible brutality of Vaughan's deliberately engineered crashes, was simply the unflinching look at the nature of obsession. Ballard (and it's so much more disturbing, somehow feeling that the author is, or may be, the narrator) shows how we can become fixated, whether on sex, death, violence, another person, whatever, to the point that nothing else in the world matters--and there is nothing particularly unusual about this! He is perfectly matter-of-fact, unalarmed about his growing obsession. This is simply the way people's minds work, he seems to be telling us. People aren't rational. They're controlled by their obsessions, some of which are more benign than others (Vaughan's would have to be among the least benign). What's most frightening about this is that we realize how true this insight is--I think that's Ballard's greatest achievement, something that he returns to again and again in other works. (I think especially of the two rival scientists carrying on their petty, personal war as the jungle around them turns to glass in "The Crystal World.") As much as I have been moved and impressed by this book, I haven't the least interest in seeing the Cronenberg movie--I don't see how a film could hope to do justice to the perfect beauty and horror of this little nightmare.
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Crash: A Novel
Crash: A Novel by J. G. Ballard (Paperback - October 5, 2001)
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