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The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard Hardcover – September 21, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

The 98 entries in The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard remind us of the power of the well-crafted short story. The tales' chronological ordering offers a valuable glimpse into the author's evolution of thought and style, and the range of the work might surprise American readers (the collection was first published nearly a decade ago in Britain) who know Ballard's novels but haven't spent much time with the short fiction. Ballard draws on and influences an eclectic tradition—the author will remind many readers of the American writers Steven Millhauser, Philip K. Dick, William Burroughs, and others—to illustrate again and again how an old master can bring vignettes to life without skimping on big ideas.


“Although Ballard, who died in April, was probably more influential than he was popular, during his lifetime he received the ultimate literary honorific: the use of his name in adjectival form. Perhaps best known for his books that became movies...he was a prolific and provocative short-story writer, too....An essential work from an essential writer.” (Keir Graff - Booklist)

“Each of Ballard’s 98 short stories is like a dream more perfectly realized than any of your own....Ultimately, Ballard is simply a master story writer―the maker of unforgettable artifacts in words, each as absolute and perplexing as sculptures unviewable from a single perspective. In this book of 98 stories, there are at least 30 you can spend a lifetime returning to, to wander and wonder around.” (Jonathan Lethem - The New York Times Book Review)

“At 1,200 pages, it may seem like a daunting book for the non-enthusiast, but it provides the best angle for approaching Ballard for the first time―and displays his development into Britain's most original postwar writer...The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard demonstrates the range and evolution of that work, and suggests that we might come up with many more uses of 'Ballardian' than we have so far.” (Fatema Ahmed - The National)

“As exotic as anyone in the aviary was Ballard, the elegant, evolving stylist, and the one with the finest ideas almost always finely executed. The full showcase of his short-form career is assembled at last in The Collected Stories, with a brilliant introduction by Martin Amis.” (Richard Wirick - Bookslut)

“[A] staggeringly great and varied volume.... The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard offers weeks of surprise and pleasure.” (Ed Park - Los Angeles Times)

“The marvel of most of these tales is how instantly comprehensible their alternate realities are when so little is explained―and how believable they are, too, thanks to Ballard's unflappable narrative voice. With unerring instinct, he finds the ordinariness in the most preposterous scenarios, thus connecting them in detail and tone to our own reality....There are still two Ballard novels and a memoir awaiting U.S. publication. Let's hope the overdue appearance of this volume means the rest are on their way.” (Michael Upchurch - Seattle Times)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1216 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (September 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393072622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393072624
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #624,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Canwell on September 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We shall not see the like of J.G. Ballard again -- and is that not the highest praise any writer can receive? Ballard adroitly used calm, almost transparent prose to create surreal story-scapes and characters who intellectually realize they are headed into trouble, but are emotionally and viscerally incapable of resisting Chaos's pull.

Now we have "The Complete Short Stories of J.G. Ballard," tracing this major author's development during a career that spanned from the mid-1950s into the early years of 21st Century.

In 2001, Ballard said, "Short stories are the loose change in the treasury of fiction" -- this book is a tall stack of change indeed. The values of each piece vary (as must be the case, by definition, for any "Complete" retrospective), but each one will repay the investment of your reading time.

Highly, highly recommended.
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I first learned about the work of British science fiction writer J.G. Ballard as a junior-high-school student, when I bought (for 50 cents!) a brand-new 1962 Berkeley Medallion paperback edition of his prescient end-of-the-world novel "The Drowned World" (I still have it). His surreal, evocative story of a dysfunctional group of people exploring the steaming, verdant lagoons of flooded cities on an Earth transformed into "the forgotten paradises of the reborn Sun" blew me away at the time. I eagerly bought Ballard's novels and short-story collections as they appeared for years afterwards, until I drifted away from science fiction. Now, with my interest in sci-fi rekindled and with "The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard," I again have at my fingertips, in one convenient volume, all of his stories that made such a strong impression on me as a youth.

If you're reading this review, you probably already know about the late Mr. Ballard's unique, dystopian, psychologically themed, often controversial sci-fi work. So I won't try to sell you on him as an author. If you like his work, you're probably already at least mildly interested in "The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard." If you don't know or like his work--and it most definitely is not for everyone--then you'll have no interest in the book. So, assuming you're in the former category, is this a book you should consider buying?

My answer is an enthusiastic "Yes!" This collection is a fantastic volume, a fantastic value and a "must-have" for any real Ballard fan. When this massive, heavy tome arrived at my front door, I eagerly opened it, in the proper way for a new book, and then flipped through it, savoring the sheer wealth of creativity captured in small print on its 1,199 crisp pages. Then I checked the Table of Contents.
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Format: Paperback
I've always enjoyed J. G. Ballard's writing. It used to be that you had to find his stories in British editions, which, pre-Internet, were rare in the US. I've read most of these stories before, in different collections, but having them all in one book is a real treasure.

Ballard is more like Borges or Cortazar, or Kafka, than he is like Bradbury or Heinlein. If you are expecting "Sci-Fi" stories, you might be disappointed, even though a lot of the stories involve the future and astronauts.

It might not be good for your mental health to read all of these stories in one run. I'm about 600 pages into this collection, and the accumulating weight of Ballard's obsessions is starting to make me want to take a break. It's an understatement to say that Ballard had a traumatic childhood, and I don't think it's armchair psychology to say that his writing is on one level a way of dealing with trauma. How else can you explain the endless repetition of specific images and situations? Let's see - coral reefs, abandoned swimming pools, sand, plane crashes and crashed airplanes, concrete, empty cities, astronauts, time. If anyone want to add to the list, please do - I know I'm missing a few.

Time, specifically, is an obsession. Ballard seems to see the space age as a confrontation between humanity and the mystery of time. "If the sea was a symbol of the unconscious, was space perhaps an image of unfettered time, and the inability to penetrate it a tragic exile to one of the limbos of eternity, a symbolic death in life?" I'd say that about a third of the stories in this collection deal with this kind of question. Like Kafka, Ballard used his stories to examine philosophical questions from all angles.
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Format: Paperback
This massive book is a steal for its price. I've now read all 1196 pages. Tons of clever sci fi merging with paranoid urban horror. Ballard uses many recurring themes in many of these stories. There are lots of solitary people that occupy empty hotels. Often surrounded by sand dunes that evoke memories of the space race and the surface of the moon. He puts his characters in the loneliest environments possible but his characters often seem very at ease with their situations and are there by choice. Ballard creates wide open spaces that still feel claustrophobic because they are so desolate. But it never feels hopeless or depressing. He also includes a lot of futuristic art in his stories, especially in his Vermillion Sands stories. Very clever ideas about living houses and growing sculptures and sound experiments. There are tons of great ideas in these stories.

This is a great bedroom night stand book. Most of the almost 100 stories are in the 10-20 page range and can be read in one sitting. The stories are short and to the point with great ideas that don't suffer from the author trying to fill a novel. The quality over the span of the stories is a lot better than most other authors could produce. There were only a handful of stories in the collection that kind of bored me. A few of the stories will be some of my all time favorite short stories. I'm going to leave this book by my bed and put away my copy of Kafka's complete stories.
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