The Drowned World

J. G. Ballard
The Drowned World Cover

The Drowned World


I understand this is only entry-level Ballard, but already The Drowned World is not SF as others would write it.

Something has gone wrong with the sun. The temperature has rocketed; the ice-caps have melted; sea-levels have risen; and humanity has retreated to scattered enclaves towards the poles. This is not a new kind of setting, but the story Ballard chooses to tell with it is not the story many other writers would have picked.

Ballard's tale is as much a tale of the mind as of the world. Life, in the drowned world, seems to be reverting to Triassic forms, to the forms that existed last time the world was hot. Is humanity going to do the same? Is there some kind of dormant genetic memory waiting to be awakened? There certainly seems to be something odd happening to members of the scientific expedition to the flooded cities.

The internal story is overlaid with a more prosaic story of survival and conflict, and the book is very readable. The sense of the stifling tropical heat is powerful and convincing, but the actual dynamic of the story didn't really work for me. I thought it was a solid and interesting, but unspectacular, book. 3/5.