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The Crystal World Paperback – May 1, 1988

3.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Beautifully rendered Ballard the poet in full ecstatic blast.” ―Anthony Burgess

“Of all the unknown regions Ballard's imagination has opened up, this crystalline forest is the most haunting, with its golden orioles frozen in a lattice of jewels and men like conquistadores embalmed in diamond armour. The creation of the crystal world is something magical and not to be missed.” ―The Guardian

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 lives in England.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374520968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374520960
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #482,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Even by the most basic definition of "science-fiction" this book barely makes the cut . . . it doesn't really take place in the future, doesn't feature new technology, doesn't try to rewrite the laws of physics, you can even understand it without a degree in higher mathematics. Ballard's always been too concerned with the psychological and what lies inside the human heart to be a real SF writer but in the end, it's the story itself that counts, whatever genre label you want to slap onto it. What makes this book so effective is the calm contrast of the utterly unfathomable with the completely normal. Dr Sanders receives a letter from friends in a part of Africa saying really weird stuff about everything turning to crystal . . . curious, he travels there and finds that there weren't speaking metaphorically . . . everything, trees and all, are slowly being converted to crystal, and there's mounting evidence that the rest of the world is going to soon follow suit. Against this backdrop Ballard lets Sanders attempt to make some sense of what's going on. The unwaveringly calm tone of the novel only accents the subtle creepiness of the whole affair and every time you think Ballard's run out of ways to describe crystals and jewels, he figures out yet another one. Symbolism and imagery run amok in this story, there's definitely some sort of quasi-religious (or at least good/evil) aspect to all the crystalization going on but I'll be darned if I can figure it out.Read more ›
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By A Customer on June 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Responding to a cryptic letter from a former lover, Dr. Edward Sanders journeys into the African interior and discovers that, through a solar prodigy, an expanse of rain forest and all within it have begun to crystallize. As Sanders is drawn deeper into this mysterious experience he discovers the same dark human venality at work, played out against scenes of paradisal wonderment. As he did in Empire of the Sun, Ballard imagines a strange, new world; hidden just beneath and quite at variance with this one The Crystal World is an eerily beautiful book. Richly imagined and written by one of the premier writers of our time. Read and enjoy.
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Format: Paperback
Owing more than a passing salute toward Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS, J. G. Ballard's THE CRYSTAL WORLD also resembles a more obscure work by one David Lindsay, A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS. Just as in Conrad's masterpiece, Ballard's complicated protagonist Dr. Edward Sanders must venture up a West African coastal river to discover not only his own fate, but the fate of the world. Once a devoted caregiver to lepers in a hospital in Fort Isabelle, Sanders goes to find two friends, Dr. Max Clair and his wife, Sanders' ex-lover and aide-de-camp at the leproserie, the lovely but dark Suzanne, living now at a jungle clinic in a remote outpost far upriver. He has received a strange letter from Suzanne in which she describes the great forest as "glistening like St. Sophia," herself as "becoming excessively Byzantine," and the native peoples as "walk[ing] through the dark forest with crowns of light on their heads." Understandably, Sanders is both intrigued and distressed--and, we soon decipher, still very much in love with Suzanne, or at least his memories of her.

First Dr. Sanders, who appears to us as something considerably less than Burrough-esque but more than a mere clod, is forced to wait in the river station of Port Matarre for someone willing to take him further up the Matarre River to the almost mythical Mont Royal, where the Clairs may be found. Port Matarre is an exceedingly strange, purgatorial place, steeped in shadow, a place where, as Sanders remarks to a traveling priest, "The sun seems unable to make up its mind." Here he meets a young journalist, Louise Peret,who bares more than a passing resemblance to Suzanne Clair, although Louise is lighter of complexion, a somehow brighter version of her "somber twin" Suzanne Clair.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Vague yet unpredictable. If you read this book without first reading a summary, you are initially wondering if this takes place in the late 1800s/early 1900s or potentially on a different planet. As the story evolves, there are lots of both detailed characters and then key, but undefiled characters. Ultimately, you do not get answers from this book. It reminds of a Thomas Covenant, White Gold Wielder style where there may be actions, but no explanations. Different individuals have theories, but do not actually explain them to any detail, so you are not sure what to think. Perhaps that is the key to this intriguing shorter novel.
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Format: Paperback
The fourth of J.G. Ballard’s 1960s apocalyptic novels, The Crystal World suffers from the same problem that afflicted the first two, The Wind From Nowhere and the Drowned World (I haven’t read the third, The Drought, because I couldn’t find a reasonably priced copy), which is the sidetracking of the narrative into hackneyed directions while the excellent premise goes a-begging. In this case, the mystery—a creeping crystallization of everything in a remote African jungle—starts taking a back seat to some romantic subplots that range from the banal to the ludicrous.

I liked the initial setup but once the main character, Dr. Sanders, gets to the jungle where the crystallization is taking place, the focus shifts to other characters who act as if nothing out of the ordinary were taking place around them as they pursue their own obsessions. Ballard’s next novel, the acclaimed Crash, came out seven years after this. Hopefully, it’s a lot better than the first four (I’m assuming The Drought is about on par with the other three).
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