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The Drowned World Paperback – 1999
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Top Customer Reviews
"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.Read more ›
As such, it has more in common with the likes of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" than "Alas, Babylon" or other contemporary works of apocalyptic fiction. In fact, in many ways it presents itself as a post-modern retelling of Conrad's journey into man's baser instincts. The main character, Dr. Kerans is an admirable stand in for Marolow, as like his literary predecessor he is both drawn to and repelled by his surroundings and what they do to him and those around him. Likewise, his aptly named nemesis Strangman is so reminiscent of Kurtz, including his almost cult-like relationship with Africans (more on that later) it is difficult not to picture him as a Marlon Brando type character.
However, what separates the two novels, and keeps "The Drowned World" from being entirely derivative, is that Marlow has a civilization, a real civilization, to fall back upon. No matter his descent into the unknown, both internally and externally, there is always a thread, however tenuous, that he can use to pull himself back up out of the primitive. Kerans, on the other hand, is stuck in a global Congo, and the so-called civilization he could fall back upon is a mere shell of what it was, scratching out an existence above the Arctic and Antarctic Circles. As such, his backward drift into the primeval is both more intense and ultimately irrevocable.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This novel is a good companion to Ballard's High-Rise: A Novel. Both deal with a society that has been deformed or exaggerated by its environment. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Karl S.
I discovered J. D. Ballard about a year ago. Would have never found him if it was not for Amazon. Anyway, I read his last book first and his first book last. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Wendy Busby
I don't know where the love of this book is coming from, not much happens and less is explained. It seems like one of those conversations that you have where at the end you go... Read morePublished 7 months ago by David Gonsalves
An uncelebrated SF author who wrote very interesting novels and short stories. A fascinating way of looking at our world.Published 8 months ago by Old Audio
Wonderful journey from a great writer. This is all the more enjoyable with climate change in the newsPublished 11 months ago by A. Higgins
So the characterization isn't what you write home about with Ballard, it's his visuals, atmosphere and his ideas. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
JG Ballard was a brilliant visionary writer. One of those rare authors who so completely illustrates the world he has created that you feel immersed in it. Read morePublished 16 months ago by YR Davis
Published the year I was born, it has taken me quite awhile to get around to this eery classic. Ballard's science fiction work is set quite far apart from contemporaries Philip K... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Ann M.