The Drowned World

J. G. Ballard
The Drowned World Cover

The Drowned World


This is one of those novels that is hard for me to comment on. At the outset let me say that the writing itself is great. His descriptions of a post apocalyptic world in which the sun goes through changes and starts emitting powerful and deadly radiations, which blows the ozone and other protective atmospheric barriers away, melting the ice caps (sound familiar?) and causing the oceans to swell, flooding major cities, leaving only the top few floors of skyscrapers above the waterline.

But where I expected this to be a novel dealing with man's fight to survive under these brutal conditions, Mr. Ballard changed gears and took me in a completely different scenario. This novel reads almost like a very long suicide note.

Where the novel opens with a scientific exploring of the flora and fauna (which has begun showing signs of reverting back to the Triassic Period of giant lizards, due to the growth of the iguanas and the vegetation) then soon becomes a suicidal mission of the main character, a woman that had been homesteading over her grandfathers domain in a high rise penthouse, and another scientist, who had begun to have dreams of reverting back along with the reptiles and vegetation into an earlier incarnation of man. These dreams would have made a better story, I think.

Instead after a few weeks of peace and quiet among the ruins (after the rest of the scientific team had left) adjusting to their new life's prospect, along comes a piratical bunch. This Piratical bunch, led by a not to wound together albino of a leader, soon takes over the story for the whole middle two thirds of the book. Kind of like an even more evil Captain Nemo, these pirates were pillaging the empty buildings of the treasures that were left behind. And incidentally involving our three intrepid idiots that decided to stay behind to face almost certain death.

I think I would have preferred a straight forward man against nature tale. It is only the talent of Mr. Ballard that made this one at least bearable enough to finish.