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The Drowned World Paperback – 1999

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Product Details

  • Series: Millennium SF Masterworks (Book 17)
  • Paperback: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857988833
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857988833
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,588,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'There are those (I am among them) who would back Ballard as Britain's number one living novelist' -- JOHN SUTHERLAND, SUNDAY TIMES

About the Author

SALES POINTS * #17 in the Millennium SF Masterworks series, a library of the finest science fiction ever written * 'One of the brightest stars in post-war fiction' -- Kingsley Amis * 'There are those (I am among them) who would back Ballard as Britain's number one living novelist' -- John Sutherland, Sunday Times * 'This novel, with its brilliant descriptions of an inundated London and an ecology reverting to the Triassic, gained Ballard acceptance as a major author' -- Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Customer Reviews

The account often lacks clarity and doesn't make sense.
The characters are underdeveloped and unlikeable, the world is not particularly imaginative, the ending is as bland as the rest of the book.
I loved this book only recently read even if its writing is up to '60s.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Greg Hughes on July 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the first novel I read by J.G. Ballard. I first heard of the author 12 years ago after seeing "Empire of the Sun". At that time I had no idea that Ballard's early works were science fiction.
"The Drowned World" (Ballard's first novel) is set in a future where most of the planet is underwater or covered in lush jungle. Melting ice caps have caused the sea level to rise, and an altered climate has forced the population to flee to the areas of the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. Intense sunlight is causing the temperature to rise all the time, making the environment increasingly hostile to human life. The only creatures that thrive in the new conditions are fish, insects and reptiles, which are all growing bigger and bolder.
The mood of this book is brooding and melancholic. The small group of characters, who live in a tropical, submerged London, have dreams linked to a world millions of years in the past, as the Earth's ecology reverts to a prehistoric wilderness. There is an interesting discussion about the built-in "race memory" in the human psyche. People's fear of snakes and lizards can be linked to the time when early mammals lived in fear of the reptiles, who were the dominant lifeform millions of years ago. (And are becoming so again.)
I think some of the inspiration for "The Drowned World" may have come from John Wyndham's "The Kraken Wakes", which also featured a submerged London (although the climate was getting colder, not hotter). In turn "The Drowned World" may have been the inspiration for that much-maligned film "Waterworld". Ballard's writing style is descriptive like H.G. Wells and M.P. Shiel: poetic and elegant, if a little flowery.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on December 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
The cover of my version has a lizard sitting quite happily on some poor guy's face, which is the only part of his body sticking out of the water. For some reason, I really like it. This would be considered atypical SF if it came out today, I can't even imagine the reaction back in the sixties when this was first published, especially to an audience that had been raised on an audience of big guns and fast spaceships and heroes who solved problems by punching aliens in the face. Ballard's novel isn't about saving the world, in fact, the world is well past that point by the time the book opens and it's only going to get worse, all the people left can do is figure out how to live with the changes. As you can probably surmise from the title, climatic changes and the melting of the polar ice caps have caused the water levels in the world to rise, putting most cities under water and turning the world nearly into one big tropical ocean. This change is more than just cosmetic since it's apparently resurrecting racial memories buried deep within the collective unconscious, thus people start having weird dreams about times when the world used to be like this. Action packed? Not really. Hallucinogenic? At times. Different? You bet. Ballard succeeds mostly on the strength of his ability to convey this flooded, humid world in all its declining glory. The protagonists wander about almost aimlessly, not even sure why they do what they do. The "villains" of the piece provide a nice counterpoint to all the gloomy stuff but in the end serve as little more than a distraction, albeit a strangely entertaining one.Read more ›
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By not4prophet on January 7, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Every article, biographapical sketch or plaudit for J. G. Ballard must mention the fact that he was never popular, but hugely important due to his influence on later SF writers. Ballards lack of popular success is hardly inexpliccable. All of his writing explores his philosophical views on the human race: imminent decline, helplessness of the individual, frailty of the human genome and human civilization. These ideas, while powerful, don't generally lend themselves to compelling plots and characters. Perhaps for this reason, Ballard was best as a short story writer. His novels, including "The Drowned World", tend to start strong but finish weak.

We find ourselves with Kerans, one of a reconaissance group sent to explore the jungles of Europe. The narrative informs us that solar flares and atmospheric disintegration sparked massive global warming, upheaving the world's climate and wiping out most of civilization. A few survivors cling to existence in the arctic regions, but most of the world is overgrown with new plants and ruled by giant reptiles. Moreover, the heat and sunshine are having strange psychological effects on the remaining people; one character suggests that lingering racial memories from before the dawn of man are the cause.

This is the good section of the novel. The ideas are clear, the actions are logical, and Ballard's writing is, as always, lavish:

"Overhead the sky was vivid and marbled, the black bowl of the lagoon, by contrast, infinitely deep and motionless, like an immense well of amber. The tree-covered buildings emerging from its rim seemed millions of years old, thrown up out of the Earth's magma by some vast natural cataclysm, embalmed in the gigantic interval of time that had elapsed during their subsidence.
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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.

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