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Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Drowned World: A Novel (50th Anniversary)

The Drowned World: A Novel (50th Anniversary) - J.G. Ballard, Martin Amis J.G. Ballard, what an interesting author, they broke the mold when they made him. When I started reading sf in the 80s I had the impression that Ballard specializes in global ecological disaster scenario, what with The Drowned World, [b:The Burning World|15830700|The Aviator (The Burning World 1)|Gareth Renowden|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347928660s/15830700.jpg|21565477], and [b:The Crystal World|70255|The Crystal World|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1434120524s/70255.jpg|937339]. A sort of go-to guy for a “dot-dot-dot World” apocalyptic fiction. Then I read [b:Concrete Island|70251|Concrete Island|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386924909s/70251.jpg|1232126] and [b:Empire of the Sun|56674|Empire of the Sun|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1338519188s/56674.jpg|55232] and realized Ballard cannot be pigeonholed so simply.

The Drowned Worldis one of his earlier novels from his apocalyptic phase. If you are looking for an ecological thriller where masses of people are stampeding away from a gigantic tidal wave, you will need to find a new tree to bark up. While there are some thrilling moments toward the end, on the whole, I would describe the mood of this book as contemplative. From the first chapter most the world has already been submerged, thanks to solar radiation that melted the polar ice-caps. This bit of hard sci-fi is quite well written in the book but subsequent to this exposition the novel is more concerned with the psychological impact on the main characters, particularly Dr. Robert Kerans, through whose point of view the (third person) narrative is focused.

For some reason, the environment of the flooded world is causing a gradual regression or devolution on the creatures living on it. People are having bizarre nightmares sparked by racial memories. Later on a piratical villain named Strangman shows up and the beginning of mankind’s mental devolution can be seen through him.

This is an intriguing, but not easy to read, book. Something about this book’s narrative tone comes across as rather detached and I could not feel much involvement in the plight of the characters. They are not uninteresting, but none of them is sympathetic. I wonder if this is typical of Ballard’s prose style. I have read a few of his books, but that was decades ago when I was in my teens and I cannot remember much about those books. I do know that he is not a sf author I ever find easy to read like Asimov, Heinlein or Clarke, he is more akin to Le Guin though somewhat less accessible. There is clearly a literary quality to his writing and he often has me reaching for the dictionary.

The world of this book is quite vividly described, the image of the drowned cities is quite evocative, and the drained city even more so. There is an odd kind of beauty to it. There are mutated animals and giant insects in this book, but they are a part of the novel’s props rather than monstrosities to be battled.

The Drowned World is well worth reading as something unusual and unpredictable. It is one of those rare books that I enjoy more in retrospect when I think about it than while I was actually reading it. It certainly makes want me to read [b:Crash|70241|Crash|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1281416649s/70241.jpg|68058] and other Ballard novels I have read and forgotten about.