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on July 29, 1999
The Drought is another apocalyptic novel by futurist author J.G.Ballard. In narrative as spare and dry as the expanding deserts he envisions, Ballard describes an earthwide ecological catastrophe when industrial pollution causes a breakdown of the water cycle. Man and planet parch together. This disruption of the elements is accompanied by bizarre disturbances of the human landscape; old friendships fail while old enmities take sinister new courses; teams of "fishermen", their boats stranded in the dust of former harbors, cast their nets for a new, easier prey. Idiots become prophet kings in this redefined world. While not as vividly drawn as some of Ballard's other works, The Drought is an expertly written book; full of cryptic symbology, poetic flashes, casual violence and "Ballardian" prose. Another five star effort by this under appreciated writer.
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HALL OF FAMEon November 19, 2012
One of the greatest prose stylists in British fiction during the latter half of the 20th Century, James Ballard may be remembered best for such innovative, visionary science fiction like "The Atrocity Exhibiton", and "Crash", as well as his semi-autobiographical novel "Empire of the Sun". Among the foremost writers emerging from the British "New Wave" science fiction literary movement of the 1960s, Ballard was among its most realistic, especially in his preoccupation with the adverse impact of modern technology on both nature and human society, writing compelling novels and short stories renowned for their surrealism and atmospheric descriptive prose. His recently republished "The Drought" should rank as among the most notable examples of dystopian science fiction ever written, an ecological thriller chronicling the collapse of modern human civilization and its inexorable descent into physical decadence and psychological terror. His is a compellingly stark near future vision of a world in which most of humanity has succumbed to a drought caused accidentally by human technological error; the few survivors chronicled in "The Drought" wage an endless physical and psychological struggle for their own survival, readily transgressing time-honored moral codes in exchange for a most savage struggle for existence, becoming psychological victims of their own obsessive need for drinkable water. This is a bleak, unrelenting vision of the near future that readers may find far more compelling, brutal, realistic and poetic than anything written by the likes of Cormac McCarthy or any recently-published young writer who has ventured into the genre of dystopian science fiction. A vision that is far more remarkable given its brevity, in which Ballard has welded successfully, his own knowledge and understanding of the relevant science with his vividly descriptive prose. For those unacquainted with Ballard's prodigious gifts as both a storyteller and writer, "The Drought" represents him at his best, at the height of his powers, fully capable of producing high literary art.
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on September 13, 1999
This is a frightening world so close to our own. A world where one small mistake leads to a world wide drought. A world where communities, lives and loves fall apart. This was the first book that moved me, and I can still smell the salt of those drying oceans. This is Ballard at his best.
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on April 7, 2010
Written in an era witnessing ecological change, the 1960s & 1970s hosted a plethora of excellent novels about this eco-transformation. Included in this repertoire are such classics as Brian Aldiss' two novels Long Afternoon of Earth (1961) and Earthworks (1965), John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up (1972) to name a few. J.G. Ballard's The Drought (1965) is a short but powerful tale of a seemingly temporary drought turning into a decade long struggle of survival on the eastern coast of America.

Ballard is one who took up the challenge to bring science fiction from the pulpy novels to the land of literature, a task which little have achieved before him. Granted, many of the sci-fi masters have created works which have wowed the limited community but the ripples of these works have little effect on the greater literary ocean. With sci-fi's tendency to include more recent cultural changes (stemming from a notion than SF must be modern to sell), Ballard has taken a different route and created his novel in a timeless period devoid of 60s overtones (the sexual revolution, rise in drug culture, anti-war sentiments, etc.). THIS is what many of the authors of the time failed to do and hence have been lost their mediocre novels to the sands of time (some Pohl, much of Silverberg and a few others).

What Ballard has created is simply impressive because of the aforementioned fact but also because he actually has included some luscious language never before seen in sci-fi before his heralded `New Wave of science fiction' came around. Two excepts impinged a rich sensory stimulation: `She moved along at a snail's pace, her tiny booted feet advancing over the cracked sand like timorous mice.' and `His eyes hovered below his swollen forehead like shy dragonflies.' There are other such passages which are equally as descriptive and lush as the latter two. The similes, metaphors and third eye observations by the author are like those never seen before 1965 sci-fi.

The story itself invites the reader to explore the community of Hamilton at the end of a summer drought where the river and lake has nearly dried up; the population has fled to the oceanic coast and the remaining citizens dealing with their own inner demons. Castor has remained behind to coddle his mementos and look after his loose alliances with brachycephalic-skulled sidekick, a feral river-touring boy and the increasingly rouge-like town minister. Later in part two, the story jumps forward ten years where we find the drought still in situ; the ocean has receded, replaced by miles of salty earth. Communities dotted along the coast cope by herding tide pools of water and herring back to their camps consisting of restructured heaps of automobiles. When worse comes to worse, the hope arises that there may actually be water a hundred miles back inland, which is where part three begins and where you may find yourself at the mercy of a truly talented author.
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on October 8, 2011
An antithetical companion piece to 'The Drowned World,' Ballard's 'The Drought' is (on the surface) a peering into mans future as cataclismic forces, this time from the savage effects of global warming, ravage the world, thrusting social and psychological changes upon the survivors as they scavange for precious resources.

In his own view, Ballard reacast the 'catastrophe story' as an alternative to our own worldly perceptions, challenging his characters (and us) in a timeless universe to make the best of the situation and 'swim.' Ballard also considered mans reinvention or reinterpretation of the catastrophe story as the writer's own feelings of 'self-destruction.'

Ballard is an intensely descriptive and thoughtful writer, effortlessly (it seems to me) providing his readers with believable scenarios and possibilities. As others have commented, his finely crafted prose reaches a level of beauty and poetry that few can match with consistency.

As a latecomer to his works, I thoroughly enjoy his earlier sci-fi writing from the '60's, 'The Drought' included. I recommend any of his earlier works, The Crystal World one of my favorites. For something different, try reading Crash or The Atrocity Exhibition from the same era.

JKH
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on November 21, 2015
I am very displeased with this "novel". I bought it because I need to read it for a class and I can tell I'm going to loath every moment of it. Ballard's characters are inconsistent and unconvincing. His dialogue reads like that of a budding author utterly convinced that he's brilliant. I've only gotten to chapter 5 but I have already been confused in his portrayal of characters, disappointed in his underwhelming "climactic" moments and utterly bored with the poor dialogue. I've found myself multiple times saying "no one talks like this". I believe some of the "reviews" for this book are incredibly misleading. It's such a great concept, life when the water runs out, but it's written so unbelievably awful.
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HALL OF FAMEon November 19, 2012
One of the greatest prose stylists in British fiction during the latter half of the 20th Century, James Ballard may be remembered best for such innovative, visionary science fiction like "The Atrocity Exhibiton", and "Crash", as well as his semi-autobiographical novel "Empire of the Sun". Among the foremost writers emerging from the British "New Wave" science fiction literary movement of the 1960s, Ballard was among its most realistic, especially in his preoccupation with the adverse impact of modern technology on both nature and human society, writing compelling novels and short stories renowned for their surrealism and atmospheric descriptive prose. His recently republished "The Drought" should rank as among the most notable examples of dystopian science fiction ever written, an ecological thriller chronicling the collapse of modern human civilization and its inexorable descent into physical decadence and psychological terror. His is a compellingly stark near future vision of a world in which most of humanity has succumbed to a drought caused accidentally by human technological error; the few survivors chronicled in "The Drought" wage an endless physical and psychological struggle for their own survival, readily transgressing time-honored moral codes in exchange for a most savage struggle for existence, becoming psychological victims of their own obsessive need for drinkable water. This is a bleak, unrelenting vision of the near future that readers may find far more compelling, brutal, realistic and poetic than anything written by the likes of Cormac McCarthy or any recently-published young writer who has ventured into the genre of dystopian science fiction. A vision that is far more remarkable given its brevity, in which Ballard has welded successfully, his own knowledge and understanding of the relevant science with his vividly descriptive prose. For those unacquainted with Ballard's prodigious gifts as both a storyteller and writer, "The Drought" represents him at his best, at the height of his powers, fully capable of producing high literary art.
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on February 28, 2015
If you are looking for something that depicts the devastation cased by climate change that is at all realistic, this is not. The characters go through horrific events without being horrified; where there has been devastating drought, food mysteriously appears (in cans, saved for years it seems); populations move to the seaside where there are desalinization machines, but there is no indication how they survive without food or real shelter or political organization. It is well written and you may enjoy the story if you can set aside the unrealistic assumptions underlying the main characters' survival.
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on March 26, 2015
Definitely not written contemporary. Reads like an ancient "Amazing Stories" pulp. After all it was first published in 1962. However, I've read books published 150 years ago and they still read as if they were current fiction.
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on April 16, 1997
The world dies. Ballard ends it with a flood in Drowned World, with wind in Wind from Nowhere and so on. In this book it is a drought. Think for yourself how you would write it. In a few paragraphs Ballard sucks you into his version, peopled with characters strange and as unbelievable as the premise. I know the exact location to shoot the movie of this, and have always cherished a secret dream that one day I'd help make that movie. Now comes Crash - and now millions of otherwise literary Americans will come to know some of JGB's work and some lucky soul with cash will buy the option to my dream. Ah well, the greater good is that JGB may become recognized at last as one of the finest minds in SF, a creator of worlds and a master of psychologies. Please read the book, but please leave the movie rights for me
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