Review of The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard


“I don’t think my bookshelf will be kind to me this year.” She says as she  finally closes The Drowned World and puts it alongside the still-to-read books. I’m sat here 1:00 am writing this review because I’m finally,after much struggle,finished and I have to be over with it so that I can read another book.

Until reading The Time Machine just last month, I hadn’t gone anywhere near a Science Fiction novel,mainly because I like my science fiction in the cinemas. The Drowned World is amongst the books I have to read for my course though so there was no escaping it. I had to sit myself down and power through. Which I did eventually…

Unfortunately, throughout the first half of the novel I barely understood some of the terminology used so I couldn’t get myself into it enough to power through. It was so different to The Time Machine. There were references to ‘types’ of things, like a type of boat or a specific species of crocodile – which in all honesty I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t watched Planet Earth. I spent so much time having to re-read paragraphs or look up new vocabulary, I am certain I read the first chapter almost three times. It could be blamed on my ignorance and lack of knowledge but, I just couldn’t immerse myself into Ballard’s world, I couldn’t even wrap myself around it. It took me a few chapters to fully grasp what everything was and where everything was placed. It made me realise how different Science Fiction is and more so how incredibly thought out it is.

Despite its sticky beginning, the plot proved to be quite interesting. Set in a futuristic time zone where the world has finally comes to its most dire stages as a result of climate change, the story has a sense of relatability to the present day. Ballard’s ability to create the sense of atmosphere is intense and almost real. The climate, temperature and emotions are so well portrayed that it’s easy to put yourself in a single characters shoes and yet, the story itself is quite obviously unreal so you can all the while distance yourself and read the story as if you are watching it on screen.

It has quite a considerable slow start as it introduces the characters, their thoughts and their standpoints. The world building took up quite a few chapters which meant there was very little action until the second half. This however allowed the climax to be kept a surprise. Not really a shocking surprise but, not knowing the protagonists mission or end goal is possibly what kept me interested.

Once I had finally gotten a hold of the different aspects of this drowned world, the action was a lot more vividly imaginable and enjoyable but I think the most enjoyable aspect is that Ballard has a very round about manner of describing events, so concepts that are usually grasped quite quickly are revealed a lot slower. This helped in always keeping the suspense alive.

The ending, I felt (deep down) was predictable. And however predictable it may have been was still disappointing because the little action that Ballard added to the second half came to an end too quickly.It was anticlimactic, nothing special hence, quite disappointing.

All in all it was  a challenging read but interesting. Is it worth a read? Well, if you’re good with concentration and you want to know what might happen to the world if we keep up destroying the Earth then yes. If you’re not into Sci-Fi then maybe this isn’t the book for you.

Did I or did I not try to kill myself?’ One of the few existential absolutes, far more significant than ‘To be or not to be?’,


My rating:  3.5/5


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