Review of 'The Drowned World'

The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard

It is the future and a series of solar flares have caused the protective barrier of the atmosphere to be largely removed causing the temperature of the planet to steadily climb. The world is flooded and turned into a tropical environment complete with enormous plants and animals - The planet reverting, as it were, to the world of the Triassic age. Humans have been forced to retreat from their submerged homes to the poles to avoid the heat with birth rates plummeting due to radiation poisoning. Robert Karens is a doctor holed up in the upper reaches of what was the Ritz hotel in London part of a scientific expedition exploring this odd new place humans find themselves in. With the temperatures rising the expedition receives orders to leave but Kerans decides to stay - He feels compelled to stay and adapt rather than hide with the rest of humanity. His return to nature is disturbed when a group of scavengers arrive to pillage the city below…

An interesting read with the idea that in the wake of such catastrophic events humanity reverts to base desires…as does the planet. Karens serves largely as a narrative device taking the reader through the events as they unfold around him. His underlying motive is, I feel, never made entirely clear but is felt at a basic level. The world is described in vivid detail making it alive in the reader's mind. Living as I do in London the areas described are perfectly clear as they are now so when they are central features of this novel it is entirely clear what is being discussed…

Though fairly short, I found this first published novel by Ballard quite slow going in parts but still it drew me forward…The interviews and features at the end of this “Harper Perennial” “P.S.” edition added a degree of clarity to Ballard's thinking.

Interesting view of a distopian future.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2013-08-04

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Harper

Publication Date: 1962

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