The Drowned World

J. G. Ballard
The Drowned World Cover

The Drowned World


This early novel from JG Ballard was expanded from a short story, and I can't quite figure out which portion it is. The descriptions are lush and really bring out the environment, the characters are fairly flat and somewhat looney. The chief antagonist, Strangman (the strange man) is a great caricature; the only woman in the story is mere window dressing.

Quite a big deal is made about the earth's return to an earlier time and to the deep and regressive dreams by many of the characters - only to have this detail abandoned and never resolved.

The science (and later geography) were a big letdown, taking me firmly out of the story. Early on, the story is of a drowned nameless city with taller buildings poking out of the water and large intersections instead referred to as lagoons. Later, the city is revealed to be London - which means land above that would also be above water - the majority of England, for instance. When the main character walks 150 miles south from London... well, no mention of the English Channel or the Cliffs of Dover is made.

This book is on a few lists of the best science fiction, and has been released as one of the Science Fiction Masterworks. This seems to be primarily from the author's reputation and other novels, because this one was somewhat below average.