Review of 'Miracles of Life'

Miracles of Life by J. G. Ballard

miracles_of_life.jpg Those who will have read Ballard's “Empire of the Sun” or seen Spielberg's film will already be vaguely familiar with the start of this book which tells of the author's life in pre-WW2 Shanghai but rather than the fiction of the book and film this is the reality. As the carefree child of indifferent parents they lived the live of wealthy expats in the world of Shanghai but definitely not of it with their servants, large house, similar expat friends and social circles. They could see the writing on the wall as Japan invaded China when they were interred at a camp outside of the city. Ballard admits to enjoying his time at the camp as it allowed him, ironically, more freedom as he met and mingled with others. As the war ends with more of a whimper than a bang for the Ballards he travels to England for an education, then Canada where he trained as an RAF pilot in the dead of winter, eventually an author back in England beginning in advertising but finding his way into writing Science Fiction short stories for the “pulps” and eventually novels, then husband, father and finally widow living just outside London in Shepperton where he would spend the rest of his days.

An interesting if slightly dry biography from one of the modern greats of Science Fiction “Miracles of Life” tells the story of a remarkably independent man struggling to find his way in his world. Easy to read with the occasional picture breaking up the narrative, this will appeal to fans of the author but also WW2-era Shanghai as that is the real core of this story. Ballard is remarkably honest often to the point of parody as he belittles his accomplishments but at the same time relays a narrative that directly contradicts this. By the end of the book we are left with a man content in his life and talking of his high hopes of cancer treatment, treatment we now know would only slightly prolong his life. He died at the age of 79 in April 2009.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2023-04-23

Genre: Autobiography

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Publication Date: 2008

ISBN: 9780007272341

Other reviewed books by J. G. Ballard: