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Concrete Island: A Novel Paperback – October 5, 2001
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“Visionary of both style and substance . . . the literary equivalent of Salvador Dalí or Max Ernst.” ―The Washington Post Book World
“Ballard's novels are complex, obsessive, frequently poetic, and always disquieting chronicles of nature rebelling against humans, of the survival of barbarism in a world of mechanical efficiency, of ethropy, anomie, breakdown, ruin . . . The blasted landscapes that his characters inhabit are both external settings and states of mind.” ―Luc Sante
About the Author
J. G. Ballard is the author of numerous books, including Empire of the Sun, the underground classic Crash, and The Kindness of Women. He is revered as one of the most important writers of fiction to address the consequences of twentieth-century technology. His latest book is Super-Cannes. He died in 2009.
Top Customer Reviews
Some of the negative or lukewarm reviews are correct in that those readers obviously did not like certain elements of the book, notably the lack of logical narrative progression or fuller character development but they are mistaken to consider these peculiarities of style as deficiencies worthy of criticism. This book is not intended to be a straightforward adventure story or a character driven drama, or even a novel with some surrealistic elements.
Concrete Island, like Ballard's most popular book Crash, is a novel length exploration of abstract concepts wrapped in a traditional narrative format. Consider Ballard's earlier, short science-fiction stories, where a characters' specifics are more or less incidental to the situations in which they are placed. Or his later short works where characters are no more than conceptual cyphers or sometimes just a specific instance of a notional character spanning across several stories.
With that in mind, the events and settings are supposed to be surreal and incomplete. The characters are supposed to be unrealistic and uni-dimensional. You aren't supposed to identify with anyone or anything, at least not physically, and then only to the extent that you might become aware of forces acting in your own life or impulses in your own psyche which these fantastical situations and characters represent.
So if you are familiar with Ballard's other work, or are interested in Ballard but want something a bit more approachable than, say, Crash or Atrocity Exhibition, then you will really enjoy Concrete Island - its relatively tight and fast moving, much more fleshed out than his shorter works with plenty for your brain to chew on for a while, but without frying your mind as much the Ronald Reagan-Liz Taylor psychosexual stuff.
The "island" on which the action takes place is a triangular section of fenced-off wasteland formed by the intersection of two motorways. The protagonist of the story, Robert Maitland, is marooned on the island when his car crashes. An injury to his leg leaves him unable to climb the fence or steep banks which surround the island, and the fact that it is screened from public view means that he and his car are unlikely to be seen from the surrounding roads. His irregular home life also adds to his predicament. He has both a wife and a mistress, and spends time living with both women, who are seemingly happy with this arrangement. His disappearance therefore goes unnoticed for some time, as both women assume that he is with the other. Maitland is forced to survive on what he is able to find on the island. He discovers, however, that he is not its only inhabitant; he shares it with Jane Sheppard, young women of good family on the run from a failed marriage, and Proctor, a mentally handicapped former circus acrobat.
The setting of the story is absolutely precise, both in place and time. Maitland's crash occurs at the intersection of the Westway and the M4 Motorway soon after three o'clock on the afternoon of Thursday 22nd April 1973 (a year before the book was published). Or, at least, it purports to be absolutely precise, but Ballard's opening paragraph contains two deliberate mistakes. In reality, April 22nd 1973 was not a Thursday but a Sunday- in fact, it was Easter Day. And at no point does the Westway intersect with the M4.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What better metaphor for life. Ballard always exceeds my expectations. This is no exception.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
The writing really makes you wonder how "stranded" a person could get from a disabled or wrecked vehicle. Read morePublished 1 month ago by James Roper
A very thoughtful and thought-provoking book. The writing is brilliant.Published 3 months ago by Thomas G. Kindle
This is a good example of Ballard's minimalist style of novel he was cranking out in the 70s. It's a simple story of a man who crashes his car off of the highway and gets stuck on... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Jon Konrath
Brilliant story using the island as a metaphor of alienation in modern society.Published 24 months ago by Amazon Customer
Needed it for school, so I bought it. Came well packaged and sealed in plastic slip cover.
No damages or anything.
Ballard went out of his way with this book to be as explicitly horrible as he could: he explores the dark little corners of the rat-brain at the back of our skulls in ways no other... Read morePublished on December 5, 2011 by Daniel Sutton
This novel was my first exposure to JG Ballard and i will definately hunt down and read some of his other books after reading this one. Read morePublished on November 8, 2011 by Lewis Woolston