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Running Wild Paperback – April 30, 1999

4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Thirty miles outside of London lies a suburban utopia called Pangbourne Village, an exclusive residential development in which all the houses are new, the security system is impeccable, parents are happy and children are provided with a nonstop roster of structured activity. But fans of Ballard's High Rise , in which he turned an apartment tower into a warring miniature city, will recognize his dim view of fabricated societies. Indeed, in his eerie new novella's first moments, Pangbourne's 32 adults are found murdered, and the complex's 13 children, all but one of them teenagers, have vanished. Written as a police psychiatrist's forensic diary, the story unfolds as an investigation that quickly points to the children themselves as culprits. Though the author sketches a sharp portrait of complacent privilege in Thatcher's England and tells a provocative story with a jolting final twist, the explanation of a carefully coordinated plot among the youths--"in a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom"--is unduly glib. At just over 100 pages, that's really all there is to it; this is, in every sense, a minor work by a major writer.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'A tight, macabre tale...A well-constructed and superbly written novella. As a malevolent gesture in the direction of facts we prefer to ignore, it provides a salutary chill.' Jonathan Coe, Guardian 'In words as crisp as a well-cut film, Ballard's gripping story shocks middle-class assumptions to the roots.' Mail on Sunday 'Has the impact of a black-and-white television documentary. The writing is elegant, taut and economical, the story gripping.' Sunday Times 'A particularly chilling fable...Ballard in a nutshell.' Nicholas Lezard, Guardian 'Simultaneously a detective novel, a psychological horror novel and a dystopian political novel. "Running Wild" may well be remembered as one of the major political novels of our time.' New York Review of Science Fiction --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (April 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374525463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374525460
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #962,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Bekken on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
J.G.Ballard has a knack for digging into some really nasty subjects, and this book is no exception. The quasi-documentary style creates a truly unpleasant mood throughout the book, and makes it all too credible. Ballard's view of ultra-suburbanism is quite probably the grimmest ever to be published in print, and makes for very scary reading, espscially in the light of student shootouts in American schools or similar incidents reported in the news. Nevertheless, it is necessary to take this book seriously. It raises some extremely important questions about what sort of values adult society presents to its children.
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By A Customer on September 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Amidst the sterile routines of suburban England, Ballard tells a short fable about the loving your children too much. The post-mortem objective style of the massacre's investigator adds to the unsettling tone of this novel. Like Ballard's other works (I've read Crash, War Fever, and the Atrocity Exhibition) he explores the subterranean barbarities latent in our denatured, desensitized urban landscape. This novel is hardly one to advocate nurturing our future generations, since the blank-eyed authoritarianism of suburban child nurturing is blamed for the pscychopathic massacre. Loving a child, doesn't mean that the child is free. And the children, suffocated by parental love, suburbia, and technocracy has two routes: suicide (like 'The Virgin Suicides') or murder. Ballard shows that children are far from innocent: little bundles of joy who are ticking time bombs with artificial smiles and revenge fantasies. A must read for parents and high schoolers everywhere.
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By A Customer on June 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is where you should start off to understand Ballard's later fiction (CRASH, ATROCITY EXHIBITION, HIGH RISE, or anything after the early 1970's). This novella reveals Ballards signature pessimism and facination for the technological landscape: its inherent role in the systematization and categorizing of human behaviour. In RUNNING WILD, Ballard shows the devastating effect when our primal urges rears its ugly head after buried for too long. The novella is set in a self-contained living complex (much like HIGH RISE) where tragedy is struck. Like Freud, Ballard accepts the tragic, barbaric reality of humankind and continually asserts (which he does in his latest, COCAINE NIGHTS) that the primal nature of man will subvert, or altogether revolt against any "civilized" attempt to change it. This novel is depressing and revealing. Read it. It won't take long to finish it and it also won't be long before you become a Ballard fanatic.
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Format: Paperback
This short, clinical, unflinching novella about the violent end of a gated community is a perfect introduction to the priceless talents of J. G. Ballard. Adopting the persona of a forensic psychiatrist investigating the mass murder of the occupants of a London residential estate, Ballard explores the dangers inherent in even the most privileged manifestations of social control - the fabricated society is an attempt to lock danger out, but its regime of repression is more likely to lock danger in. You'll solve the mystery of what happened in Pangbourne Village within the first ten pages, but that isn't the point. It's not whodunit that matters, but why. Ballard's epigrammatic summary, when it comes, is slightly trite and hardly does justice to what's come before it: a chilling work of distilled intensity. It isn't the best exploration of Ballard's searing sociological vision, but it's a delicious appetizer. Readers who enjoy this will probably find "High Rise" to their taste, too.
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Format: Paperback
Although this book is short, it still has a great story that's haunting and very disturbing. Just from what's on the back you get an idea about what happens, yet as Ballard explains it, it doesn't matter WHAT happened it matters WHY it happened. This book also acts as a chilling prophecy of how western society will become. I read this after I read "Crash", by Ballard, but both books are very different and it's hard to believe that they're both by the same author. It won't take long to read, but it'll be something you'll remember.
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Running Wild is far from my favorite Ballard, which is a shame because the premise held great promise.

The short work contains all those oh-so-Ballardian elements--the sense of alienation, the vacuousness of privilege, the obsession with transgression, the cracks in the surveillance society--but nothing is developed quite as brilliantly or as chillingly as in, say, High Rise or Cocaine Nights or Super Cannes.

Part of the book's weakness is that it's styled as a Procedural or a whodunnit but if you're even vaguely familiar with Ballard then just reading the blurb in the Amazon description will tell you all you need to know to clock the Amazing Twist before you ever read a sentence. This would be less of a problem had the implications and nuances been explored more spectacularly, or even more robustly. As it was, the book fell a little flat.

The narrator of the book (especially compared to Cocaine Nights and Super Cannes) is not particularly engaging or interesting. He's just a competent, reliable, camera-like narrator.

I think perhaps at the time it was written, just the nature of the crime itself might have unutterably shocking and scandalous. Unfortunately, reality has outpaced Ballard's own dark, dystopian imagination and I found myself thinking, "Okay, dude, but if the wickedest premise you can bring to the table is a massacre style killing of a gaggle of over-achievers who live in a gated community then you're really gonna have to bring your A game when you unpack it all in your narrative." And that's a pretty depressing comment on what it means to be a human being in the developed world in 2015, je suppose.

Readers who really like Ballard should like this book just fine--I mean, I did, even though this review is a little downbeat--but if you're looking for a book to start with I'd really recommend High Rise instead.
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