Not waving but.....

The drowned world by J.G. Ballard is a bleak, tough read. Set in an apocalyptic future, the background to the novel is that rising sea levels combined with a galloping greenhouse effect have forced people to the margins of the world to the far north and south poles. London is under water, and the rising temperatures have made reptiles once more the kings of the world, with lizards and alligators sashaying through the waters above what was once Baker Street.

An outpost of scientists still remain at the heart of the city plagued by bad dreams, and odd recollections of a primeval past. The scientists eventually move out, but three of their number remain behind for some unexplained reason. Shortly after the departure of the military types some sinister freebooters arrive, and life in the jungle turns even nastier.....

Drowned world is very well written, but crikey, it's depressing. I found it a difficult book to get through. But it's classic Ballard, and many of his preoccupations in his Second World War semi-autobiographical novel Empire of the sun surface here too. In fact the villains of the piece Basie (Empire of the sun) and Strangman (Drowned world) are clearly of the same stock. Twenty years separate the novels, yet it is clear that they come out of the same experiences. It had never struck me so forcibly before that the dystopian world that war produces can feed equally well into writing about the often dystopian world of science fiction, as indeed Walter M. Miller Jr. did in A canticle for Leibowitz.

A dazzling if sometimes confusing read, but not for the faint hearted.


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