Read The Drought by J.G. Ballard Online


The world, without rain, is drying up. Rivers are a trickle and we see the shrivelling of the species far from its sources and headed lemming-like for the sea. Time has burst its dams and seeps inside the race-structure with bizarre results....

Title : The Drought
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780586089965
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 188 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Drought Reviews

  • Jonfaith
    2019-01-28 09:59

    Channel your interior Robbie Krieger and prepare for pondering The End. No. I don’t mean David Beckham’s retirement, but rather closing time, like permanently. One of my criticisms of The Road was its attempt to capture the After with an almost biblical gravity of language. J.G. Ballard appears too savvy for those traps. His exploration is empty. Life is vast and bleak. It isn’t going to rain anymore. We’re sure as hell Doomed, done for. Experiences don’t amount to much anymore. I wouldn’t waste any time on Hope either. It is this arid silence which propels the novel through its second and third sections. After the end is always the challenge. Hobbesean variations usually ensue. Its the wild west (or Somalia) or simply wicked medieval madness. There are hints of both here. A disabled man flitting about on six-foot stilts could be out of Fellini. That said, the characters’ responses are never emotional. That aspect of humanity has been deleted for operating purposes. I was impressed.

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-01-16 13:12

    Like The Drowned World this early Ballard novel is visiting through fiction the experience of a world turned upside down that is described in Empire of the Sun. Or to be slightly different, applying the understanding that gave him and trying to share that with others through fiction. You think you know the world, says Ballard, it looks familiar, comprehensible, yes? Well now look at your picnic as I yank out the blanket from underneath it! And as a reader one agrees, given this one simple change how radically different our cosy little picnic has become. Here it is not invading Japanese who overturn with casual indifference the apple cart of colonial Shanghai but a drought that drives society out of the familiar. An unending drought causes the cities to become empty while the seashore becomes an encampment for the population, working to produce fresh water rather than finding food which had been Ballard's boyhood experience in China. In these earlier novel it is the familiar environment taken for granted which Ballard shows as treacherous, later he shifts to portray human society as having through its own operations a natural tendency to dehumanise. This is not though a book about the revolt of nature, rather a revelation of the nakedness of the Emperor, humanity does not apparently cause the drought, for nature is simply beyond us, and we are dependant on it like parasites. Here, if spring is silent, it is because nature is fundamentally capricious. The modern world is both in his vision fragile and tends to render us more delicate, a counterpoint to the triumphalism of faith in technology or otherwise said our colonial and pretended Imperial domination over nature.

  • Nate D
    2019-01-31 08:09

    As Maya noted when she was reading this, there's a certain stodginess about the style, a certain pre-modern feeling at odds with the novel's future disaster premise, but as Will Self notes in his afterword, it's hard for that to really slow things up too much when the story is so full of mirage-wavered portents and apocalyptic tableaus. The strangest aspect, though, is not that tension, but the general ellipticness of and hazyness of the storytelling, the characters are inscrutable gamepieces, tracing shapes through the dust which only they can read, while the terms of the disaster are both world-scale and nearly generational, while constricted within a narrow stretch of land devoid of context after the basic setup. All of which leaves this in the eerie space, not of science fiction, but of an unnerving and untranslatable dream. Which should make it an absolute favorite, I would think, but there's also a receding quality about it -- we will never actually be able to follow the characters on their journey, it's just too foreign and detached. Again, that sounds like something I'd like. And I do, it just didn't completely click here. But it's Ballard's first published novel, I believe, of many, so I'll have plenty more stabs at this.Oh, and like all of Ballard, or so I hear, societal collapse is never far off, it only needs a little push. Which is almost the most believable part.

  • Simon Fay
    2019-02-16 15:53

    I have to admit, part of me loves the confusion surrounding a book with two names - Is it The Drought or The Burning World? Its dual identity added about five minutes onto my Google search for a cheap secondhand copy, but when the package arrived I still felt like I'd gotten my hands on some arcane relic, valuable only to those who know its thematic connection to Ballard's other novel, The Drowned World. As for the book itself, I think that it boasts some strengths in comparison to his previous work, but it's struck by some notable weaknesses too.In The Drought, the sun is doing something a lot more relatable than transforming the Earth into a bubbling swamp: It's drying up all of the water, scorching the land to dust, and crippling civilization with famine and disease. Once again, Ballard utilises the demoralising force of repetition to draw the reader into the deathstruck world, but his inspiration for it seems to come less from the murky pool of his imagination and more from the memories of his own troubled childhood.Anybody who's familiar with Ballard will know about his fictionalised memoir that recounts the time he spent growing up in a Japanese POW camp. The movie that sprung from the book fascinated me as a boy, which led me to his fiction as an adult and to an interest in his biography in general. For me, reading a Ballard book can sometimes become a treasure hunt as I pinpoint moments that have been directly inspired by the traumatic period he lived through.One such moment is at the forefront of my mind when I think about The Drought:The leading man nurses some affection for a woman in their camp. She's fiery and rebellious, or at least as best she can be under the conditions. Most people are dying of thirst, you see, and have neither the will nor energy to get mad about anything. The woman is different though. Whether by instinct or choice, she wants to hold onto some part of her identity in the face of overwhelming apathy, and the only way she can think to do it is by being angry.In that single character description, I think that Ballard achieved more psychological complexity than he did in all of The Drowned World. It injects the woman with life and by doing so makes the world around her a 3-dimensional place.The Drowned World never reached that level, but the follow-up still manages to fall a little short of Ballard's previous apocalyptic novel.The climactic disaster in The Drought is a lot less blisteringly rendered. At times it felt like Ballard had run out of steam with the concept, but was ploughing ahead in the hopes of it coming together in the end. There is some wonderful imagery at play. I can still picture the ocean receding from the shorelines and the swath of humanity trailing its edge. But overall, the story just isn't as taut or inspired as I'd have liked it to be.

  • Jose Moa
    2019-02-03 08:58

    This Ballards postapocaliptic novel follows to the The Drowned World and as this previous is on a environemental catastrophe,but this time is a human pollution caused.As in other postapocaliptic novels we can see a lost of civilization values,a social regression to small groups of almost hunters-gatherers and also a distortion of the perceived space and time and in some the sense of his own identity.There are few emotional links and little psichological intronspectionBut where Ballard is great is in describing the dry,arid,desolated infinite landscapes with a neat prose full of beautiful metaphores,a novel rather of images.

  • Leo Robertson
    2019-01-16 14:55

    Skimmed this pretty heavily. I love Ballard's descriptions and scientific speculations, but he always seems to fail me when it comes to character or plot. But descriptions and speculation are enough to validate a read anyways :)

  • Shawn
    2019-01-21 07:54

    As noted in the review for The Drowned World, another part of the quartet of Ballard's "Elemental Apocalypse" - formerly titled THE BURNING WORLD, this describes a future in which water has grown scarce (yet another possibility for our future, sadly). IIRC, it starts out with the realization of what's going on just beginning to grip the populace of a British suburb, and then at mid-book jumps ahead a number of years to the dessicated, blasted future where rag-tag groups skate across vast salt plains looking to harvest what water they can find, and follows our group of varied characters back to the suburb they once left. As with DROWNED and CRYSTAL, it's yet another iteration of Ballard's musings on Conrad's "Heart of Darkness", with the crazy, decadent rich guy in the Kurtz role.Didn't like it as much as DROWNED OR CRYSTAL, but more than WIND FROM NOWHERE. Worth checking out if you're interested in a salty, dry experience.

  • Kate Sherrod
    2019-01-27 11:18

    Sometimes I read to escape my situation; sometimes I read to wallow in it. I suspect that my taking up The Burning World during this hot, dry, searing, scorching summer of wildfire and little rain is due to the latter tendency, but I'm not entirely sure. I never am, with J.G. Ballard.This is my third foray into the gently trippy, weirdly abstracted imagination of this mid-century master (last year saw me sinking under the surface of The Drowned World; I spent part of February freezing over in The Crystal World. I guess I'll have to track down The Wind from Nowhere next, to get all of Ballard's "Elemental Apocalypse" quartet under my belt), and I'll definitely be returning for more. Nothing compares to a Ballard novel: short, vivid, melancholy, yet curiously detatched, just like his characters, who are never fighting the drowning/crystallizing/burning of their worlds, but rather just observing and saying something along the lines of "Well. How about that?"As the novel opens, Charles Ransom, -- our, well, I hesitate to call him either hero or protagonist, so let's just call him our viewpoint character -- lives and waits in the lakeside community of Larchmont, where his marriage to Judith has dried up along with most of the continent. At first, it is she, but not he, who is preparing to follow most of the rest of the area's residents in abandoning the town forever in an exodus to the coast, where desalinization plants offer humanity's last hope. Soon Ransom is left only with the remnants of a somewhat bullying Presbyterian minister's shotgun-toting congregation, Mr. Lomax, a possibly deranged architect expending every last bit of his resources in pursuit of what he imagines is going to be a promising future, Lomax's even more bizarre sister Miranda*, a weirdo named Quilter who runs around with a dead peacock hanging off his belt, and Ransom's friend, Philip Jordan, a strange, silent young man of about 20 whose whole life was spent mucking about in the water until the water started to go.And then there's the fishermen, whether bent over a beached boat "like widows over a coffin", standing mutely, hats in hands, at the back of Reverend Johnstone's church, or rampaging through the streets with nets like toreadors, become fishers of men for their own quixotic crusade, because Larchmont isn't nearly sad or Lovecraftian enough yet. Really. I'm talking burning churches wearing sturgeon's heads as hats Lovecraftian.The cause of all this desolation both is and isn't plausible (not that causes or plausibility seem ever to be the point, in Ballard): decades of pollution and discharge into the oceans has left a soup of petrochemicals and polymers that have formed a thin but impenetrable skin on their surfaces that has halted, probably forever, the cycle of evaporation and precipitation that makes life on land possible. This is my first Ballard, in other words, in which the end of the world is humanity's fault.Not that any hand-wringing over this happens, as would be true with pretty much any other author. The closest we come is the sermons of Reverend Johnstone, who regards the drought not so much as punishment as just another manifestation of the opus contra naturam by which man earns his right to exist in creation. All those migrators away from the dwindling lake and the withering vegetation are sinners for their lack of faith and sissies who are unworthy of the grace of God.But not Charlie. Charlie thinks he is staying put, though not, of course, for any reasons the Reverend would understand, nor, I suspect, any that Charlie would, either. His inaction, even when impulsively accompanying a water truck driver to deliver the last of the water from Lomax's swimming pool to a local zoo to keep the animals there alive for a few more days, draws always the same reaction from others: they want to know what he is going to do, why he hasn't left, as though somehow knowing that will make their own paths clearer. But Ransom can't help them. He's about to have problems of his own.Like holding onto his humanity once circumstances finally compel him to leave Larchmont with just three other people, on his own lemming-like journey to the sea: During their journey to the south he had felt an increasing sense of vacuum, as if he was pointlessly following a vestigial instinct that no longer had any real meaning for him. The four people with him were becoming more and more shadowy, residues of themselves as notional as the empty river.Another common theme in Ballard, that, it seems**; the guy did imagine everybody dreaming of slipping back, evolutionarily, to their lizard brains or beyond in The Drowned World.I must digress here for a moment, for I find I have a similar experience when I read Ballard. The characters and their immediate situations are always sort of drifting in and out of my consciousness. I've pondered this for a while and decided that this is because Ballard manages to summon so many cultural ghosts to haunt his stories. Phrases or passages suggest Shakespeare, Saramago, Sebald, Homer, Tolkien, tarot decks, Greenaway and Herzog films, but do so with such subtlety that one doesn't consciously notice it as she reads along. Ballard is a hypnotist, and he's inducing daydreams. Hence the bewildering effect of seemingly ordinary passages like this, when our hero spots a man in a dusty cotton suit, sort of shambling ahead in the distance: "Without thinking, Ransom walked forward a few paces, as if following the man. He waited, almost expecting to see a dog appear and run around the man's heels." The Fool card. And now I'm tripping on T.S. Eliot and Tim Powers... meanwhile the mystery man keeps shambling along in the "absolute isolation of the chalkwhite promenade, with its empty perspectives..."Imagine experiencing something like that every few paragraphs, and then you'll see that Ballard is expanding way beyond the notional 160 pages of this novel, or page count of any novel. I could share examples of this until this post was longer even than my Lord of the Rings rambles over at Kate of Mind.This effect should be a flaw by most gauges of literary worth or entertainment value that I know of, but it's not. Novels are supposed to suck you into another world when you read them. Ballard just sucks the rest of the world in with you.That's not to say Ballard is just borrowing other art. There is original imagery that is going to stay with me for the rest of my life in this novel:"They reached the margins of the river estuary. the funnel-shaped area had once been bordered by marshes and sandfalts, and the low-lying ground still seemed damp and gloomy, despite the hot sunlight breaking across the dry grass. The hundreds of vehicles parked among the dunes and hillocks had sunk up to their axles in the soft sand, their roofs tilting in all directions."And so begins our fossil record, no?Ballard writes a lot about isolation and solipsism, directly or indirectly, always in a perfectly neutral tone, no judgement or consequence. His characters just end up as islands or, in this case, as dunes, just as we who read him do, for surely no two of us are ever lured into the same space. And once lured or driven apart, these characters seldom reunite as they adapt in their idiosyncratic ways to their utterly transformed world. And when they do come back together, it's not always in merry meetings. Adaptation and isolation do lead, after all, to speciation, don't they.And so it is on the seacoast to which Ransom brings his three companions, Philip Jordan, Jordan's blind and elderly foster father, the Calibanesque Quilter's witchy mother (yeah, shades of Sycorax!), and a red-haired former zookeeper, Catherine. A ten-year lacuna sunders them utterly (not that that's very hard), and when next we see them, they are unrecognizable. And as to what they get up to, reverting as they have to a primitive life of sealskin capes and repurposed fragments of the old world, is as bizarre, yet well-imagined, as anything I have ever seen. Capturing water that the tide washes up and then steals away is difficult enough; moving it around enough to leach out the salt is monumental; stealing it is almost ridiculously complicated!But even that mighty effort is just a stop-gap, if a long one. It's no way to live, and echoes of Lomax's last words to Ransom, telling him that he'll be back someday, have already dragged the reader's thoughts back to Larchmont even before the excuse is found to try going there. That suggestion, planted so long ago, is the deepest and most compelling of all, and so it doesn't matter a bit that the excuse found doesn't make a lot of sense. Why, of course.I'm perhaps no longer making sense, but Ballard does that to me, just like W.G. Sebald did. I'm in awe and maybe still a little entranced. And watching everything burn. Well. How about that?*There is totally a sort of reverse-Tempest thing going on; Quilter gets compared to Caliban at least as often as Philip Jordan to Ariel; Lomax might make an Antonio to Ransom's Prospero, but as Miranda belongs to/with Lomax (sister rather than daughter, but still) perhaps it is he who is Prospero? But Ransom does not seem like a usurper type, or any other of the types from the Shakespeare play. And maybe he's not supposed to. Maybe I'm getting carried away with the analogies. I do that, sometimes. But really: there's even rather a lot of repetition of the world "bosun."**I keep saying "it seems" about Ballard because I'm being cautious. I've only read three of his books to date, and so am not entirely comfortable making sweeping pronouncements about what is or is not common to Ballard's work, thematically or otherwise. BUT, I do feel somewhat backed up in my sense of Ballard by this great little piece by Martin Amis that appeared recently in the Guardian. And I plan to become a real Ballardian.

  • Lark Benobi
    2019-02-12 13:48

    #2 in my Ballard Binge. The Drought is almost exactly the same book as the book that preceded it, The Drowned World, except, as the titles suggest, the first novel's apocalypse is caused by too much water, and the next novel's apocalypse by not enough. The prose in both novels is so consistently overwrought that it entertains on a different plane of reading, one that is experiential and a little bit nauseating, and that has nothing to do with the story itself. As with the last novel, this novel reminded me of Poe at his most hysterical. It also made me nostalgic for a time when novelists were allowed time to develop their craft--these early Ballard novels are adjective-laden morasses of hokey fun.

  • Edward
    2019-02-09 10:48

    "The Drought," a novel about water scarcity, creeping desert erosion, and humanity eking out survival in the midst of a harsh environment, was written in 1964, just one year before Frank Herbert's "Dune," which features many of the same themes. This is probably just a coincidence, but I like to think it was more than that. What was it about the 1960s that made two brilliant SF writers turn their minds toward such ideas? It's as strange as it is timely, considering how talk of water and water shortages has come back into the public consciousness these days, only in newspapers headlines and dire environmental articles instead of stories. Science fiction turning into science fact, in some weird inversion of time and reality, like something straight out of Ballard's writing.It's hard not to think of the thin line between our own world and the one depicted here--a harrowing, post-apocalyptic dystopia drowning in dust and bleached fish bones, ruined by humanity's careless pollution of the seas. Unlike Herbert's Dune, the earth in this story has only recently been plunged into water scarcity, and its inability to cope is chillingly vivid. There is a scene where the main characters, after driving for days, finally reach the ocean. There they are met by a vast field of parked, derelict cars, their parched drivers gazing zombie-like at the water so close, and yet so useless to them. You can feel the desperate claustrophobia coming off the page.There are some notable similarities with "The Drowned World." Lomax, while not an albino, is very much like Strangman. His foppish love of light-colored suits and facial powders seems to serve the same narrative purpose as Strangman's skin, implying some kind of nefarious, alien quality. Effectively creepy, although subtly homophobic. Whereas "The Drowned World" had only one enigmatic female character who acts as some kind of hesitant love interest for the male protagonist, this novel has at least four. I guess Ballard liked the role so much he just added more. Not as tedious as the more modern "manic pixie dream girl," but a lot more noticeable here. Biblical language and metaphor is much more abundant here as well. In addition to the Jonas (an alternative spelling of Jonah) character and his "preaching" in the wilderness, there are all the parallels to Exodus (the journey through the desert, accompanied by numerous fires set by a phantom arsonist), the corpulent, cannibalistic Miranda as a kind of Whore of Babylon, the lions "roaring" in the wilderness around the town, seeking whom they might devour, etc. Of the two I think I like "Drowned World" more, for its tighter writing and its concept of the "archaeo-psychic past" embedded in our collective memory. It was close though, and my opinion might change once I get my hands on "The Crystal World," the last of Ballard's "world" series.

  • Itchload
    2019-01-26 13:16

    At first look, The Drought would seem to be a simple transposition of Ballard’s previous novel, The Drowned World. Given that plots and conceits can often just be skeletons for Ballard to hang his singular language and obsessions atop, this didn’t seem an unlikely supposition. And there is great similarity between the two novels (as there is with most Ballard). However, what surprised me was how often The Drought resembles a Ballardian crack at the Southern Gothic novel.The setting of a small riverside town, populated with grotesques (including that favorite southern archetypes, the “idiot manchild” Quilter, who by the end of the novel has transcended his label ) with a protagonist manning a dilapidated river boat, brought to mind Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree. Combined with the post-apocalyptic atmosphere, constant extreme hunger and thirst, and suddenly The Road doesn’t seem far off either. I never thought Cormac McCarthy and JG Ballard would both come to mind regarding the same book, but despite the authors’ differences, the comparison sticks. Both authors favor poetic, grandiloquent descriptive passages, terse conversations, and mythic ambiguity. Plots don’t always resolve themselves in structured arcs and whether addressed specifically or not, there’s often something apocalyptic going on. Thinking of Blood Meridian’s “The Judge” whose nightmarish corpus eschews any attempt at reduction, and you have something possibly Ballardian. Even main character Ransome, with his sun burnt taciturnity, resembles a post-Blood Meridian McCarthy protagonist. That said, there’s plenty of singular Ballard stuff, including many things that would evolve and represent themselves throughout his career. A deranged architect dressed in ostentatious white suits? An obsession with the skeletons of destroyed cars? (See: High-Rise and Crash respectively). With its shifting allegiances and character transformations this may be one of the most fast moving Ballard books. This is not to say there aren’t hundreds of sentences dedicated to poeticizing the desiccated landscapes and ossified ruins. However, there are more than a handful of crazed set pieces to keep the balance accessible (for Ballard that is). The heft of characters could perhaps use some pruning. Ransome has an ex-wife who doesn’t distinguish herself amid the fray and some of the ally shuffling is abrupt. Characters who start off odd devolve into almost cartoonish delirium by the end. No one does insanity quite like Ballard. Lomax, the aforementioned architect clad in white, has a particularly insane trajectory (involving an immemorial transcendence of gender, replete with jeweled robes and alopecia) while Quilter develops a predilection for stilts and shawls of dead swans. This flies close to over the top. More sane readers than myself might say it leaves the top a thousand miles below. However, in the right mood and frame of mind, Ballard is the antidote to thousands of pat plot resolutions, swaggering heroics, and other delusions of normalcy.

  • surfmadpig
    2019-02-02 11:55

    Ballard likes to put normal people in times of crisis and destruction, so as to explore their limits, their morals, often their humanity. I haven't read many of his earlier works, but it seems to me that while in this one the crisis is more obvious than in some of his later novels, Ballard still manages to come up with an exciting read.The best element of "The Drought" is not the plot, which is interesting but ultimately fails to come together completely. For me it was the prose, especially peratining to the fleeting sense of identity as symbolized by the reconfiguration of time in a dying world. I *love* insights into the nature of time as perceived by humans, herp derp. "...he now felt that the white deck of the river was carrying them all in the opposite direction, forward into zones of time future where the unresolved residues of the past would appear smoothed and rounded, muffled by the detritus of time, like images in a clouded mirror. Perhaps these residues were the sole elements contained in the future, and would have the bizarre and fragmented quality of the debris through which he was now walking."

  • Corey Ryan
    2019-02-04 14:56

    The last Ballard I read was "The Unlimited Dream Company." That book was amazing. This book was ok-pale in comparison to that. Ballard's prose is nothing special. His sentence structures never attracted me to his writing and honestly, sometimes his use of similes becomes quite annoying (especially when too many end the paragraphs). What attracts me to his books are simply his stories. The oddness of the way environments can make us behave or the way the environments appear to react to our existence. "The Drought" didn't have all that-until the end. Parts two was ok and three was really classic Ballard with the obese character or Miranda (obese from a steady diet of human flesh-a futuristic Kurtz), the swan wearing Quilter, the lion taming Catherine and above all the androgynous figure of Richard Lomax all make the end of this book very satisfying. But to get there was a bit tedious. Read "The Day of Creation" if you're looking for a Ballard book involving a river.

  • Scarlett
    2019-02-04 15:17

    This was my first Ballard and I have to say it was rather disappointing. It is, too, one of his first novels, so that might account for the disappointment. His prose is very hard to follow and his sentence structures were often awkward and incomprehensible without multiple reads. I thought the story was interesting and there were some promising characters but except for a few passages that seemed to flow with more ease, it was not too engaging and when it's over you wonder what the point of it all was. I'm not saying it was terrible, though. Like I said, I liked the story and I think I get where he was going with the endlessly bleak narration. Moreover, in the end, there were some bizarre elements that sparked my interest so I don't believe he is without talent. Sadly, this arrived too late.

  • Bill
    2019-02-06 15:04

    Drought is a surreal tour through the end of a current Western civilization somewhere near the seashore. Think dry, sand, thirst, hunger, when all one's time is spent merely surviving, a state common to most of human history for all but the wealthy and powerful. Even they succumb to this global drought. Ballard is a master at painting milieu and zombie-like emotional states. His prose I find delectable and full of word puzzles for a US English speaker at least. The only real problem with the novel is the basis of the drought, but this is easily accepted and overlooked. It has some basis in science, but seems most improbable. This is one of his four Cli-Fi novels, which as a group are a masterwork. 8 of 10 stars

  • Linda
    2019-01-17 12:00

    This book feels very contemporary or timeless given that it was written in 1964. If you are looking for a psychological post-apocalyptic read - this is your book.

  • Charles Dee Mitchell
    2019-02-01 09:50

    One secret to enjoying this novel is to keep all images of any Kevin Costner movie out of you mind while reading it.

  • Marina
    2019-02-11 15:13

    Molto bello. Scritto nel 1955. Allora poteva essere fantascienza... Oggi, coi cambiamenti climatici, sta cominciando a realizzarsi. Fra cinquanta anni sarà realizzato in pieno questo scenario? Sarebbe meglio, non solo fare accordi internazionali, che poi vengono disattesi, o non più confermati ( come ha fatto Trump, USA), ma anche nel nostro piccolo, cercare di risparmiare l'acqua che è tanto preziosa.

  • Roddy Williams
    2019-01-25 13:17

    I’m not clear if Ballard ever composed poetry, although I’m of the opinion that if he didn’t then he should have. This is an expanded version of the original 1964 novel, ‘The Burning World’ and is one of a quartet of post-apocalyptic novels Ballard wrote early in his career, which may well have been based on the concept of the four alchemical elements. This is the fire section. It’s not perfect by any means. Other reviewers have remarked that there is a surplus of characters. Of the males, those with similar names, Johnstone, Jonas, Jordan, get confused very easily early on in the novel.There are also perhaps too many female characters. We have Judith, the wife of the central character, Charles Ransom. Then there is Vanessa, daughter of a somewhat deranged local priest, Mrs Quilter, Catherine Austen and Miranda, the sister of the local rich man, Richard Lomax.Perhaps deliberately Ballard has set his town, Hamilton, in an indeterminate location. It could be America, but none of the characters appear to employ any US phraseology.In the near future, industrial pollutants have caused a thin film of resilient polymers to spread over the sea, preventing evaporation and precipitation. Thus there is no rain and the lakes and rivers of the world are drying up.There is a lake in Hamilton where Ransom has a houseboat, but the level is slowly sinking and as the drought turns the land into a desert, the nature of humanity and society begins to change. Another houseboat resident, Mrs Quilter, lives with her encephalic son, known only as Quilter, or Quilty to his mother. There is a theme of transformation or possibly transmutation running through the novel and perhaps it is Quilter who, much like Dick’s Hoppy Harrington in ‘Dr Bloodmoney’, benefits most from the disaster and blossoms into something new and powerful as the deserts begin to reclaim the land.Some of Ballard’s later trademarks appear here. Miranda Lomax, who is eventually transformed into a huge Earth Mother figure who has borne three children for Quilter, makes her home in a drained swimming pool. Mannequins gaze bleakly from the windows of abandoned department stores, the eroded wrecks of ships and boats become metaphors for another theme, that of time.Ballard was always fond of beginning a chapter or a story with a reference to time, as here, when Chapter One begins:-‘At noon, when Dr Charles Ransom moored his houseboat in the entrance to the river, he saw Quilter, the idiot son of the old woman who lived in the ramshackle barge outside the yacht basin, standing on a spur of exposed rock on the opposite bank and smiling at the dead birds floating in the water below his feet.’Time is mentioned often and Ransom comes to realise that time has stripped away the superficial veneer of society from all those he knows with the peculiar exception of his wife, whose personality, so it seems, had already been whittled down to its true core before the disaster. Ransom’s narrative is a journey, from the nearly drained lake down to the sea where he spends ten years living a hand-to-mouth existence with Judith.Philip Jordan, a reclusive young man whom Ransom knew as a teenager, has undergone his own transformation and become the Captain on one of the landbound ships of ‘the settlement’. He still retains a solitary streak and, as Ransom discovers, has been restoring a hearse in an abandoned villa; an automobile they will never be able to start.After seeing a young lion, (perhaps the descendant of creatures Catherine Austen released from the zoo) prowling the salt dunes produced by the distillation plants, Ransom realises that there must be water somewhere between the coast and Hamilton. He, Mrs Quilter and Philip Jordan decide to return to the old town.Ballard’s work is seldom easy to read, and inevitably features characters with psychological problems and ambiguous motives. Very early on in the novel a group of fishermen adopt a warped Neo-Christian practice in which they pursue men through the streets with nets, dumping them into the hold of a ship as one would with a good catch. Richard Lomax, in another act of transformation, devolves into a sexually ambiguous figure.Perhaps the best metaphor for the novel itself is Ransom’s framed picture of ‘Jours de Lenteur’ by Yves Tanguy, which he cut from a magazine.‘With its smooth, pebble-like objects, drained of all associations, suspended on a washed tidal floor, this painting had helped to free him from the tiresome repetitions of everyday life. The rounded milky forms were isolated on their ocean bed like the houseboat on the exposed bank of the river.’ (Chapter 2 – Mementoes.)These objects, ‘drained of all associations’ could well be the people in Ballard’s novel, stripped to the kernel of their real selves. The concept of superficial layers being stripped away to reveal a truer reality is a common Ballard theme and here this concept is mentioned during the narrative.There are various literary references in the book. Characters from ‘The Tempest’ and ‘King Lear’ are used as comparisons for some protagonists. Lomax’s sister is actually called Miranda which adds another dimension to the Shakespeare motif. Flawed though it is, it still remains a novel that hangs in one’s thoughts.

  • Steve Dewey
    2019-02-02 13:11

    I've marked it down a star on the second reading. I like it, but it's not brilliant. Nowadays, I like characterisation in a novel far too much to truly enjoy a novel built on ciphers (a Ballardian word!) for characters. And too many of the many characters have too little to do. Quilter's a bit odd. So? Mrs Quilter is his mum. So? Catherine Austen likes lions. So? There are some fish people... So? And so on. I also find some Ballardian metaphors and allusions... exaggerated? Overegged? For example I can't imagine reading in somebody's blanched face "an image of [Ransom's] own future..." in which he "would have to create [a] sense of time out of landscape emerging around them". That's a lot to hang on a face...Interestingly, there are hints of Crash in the book: "It was as if her face already carried the injuries of an appalling motor-car accident that would happen somewhere in the future."So - it's elliptical, and kind of plotless, drifting like dunes in the hot sun, and full of a sense of unrelieved foreboding and ennui. Yet, I still rather like it. Few people write like Ballard, and this kind of British New Wave science fiction was certainly of the time, and defined a moment in the genre -- the exploration of inner space rather than outer space -- that I enjoy. It will be interesting to revisit Ballard's other early apocalyptic novels at some point.

  • Dominic
    2019-01-28 10:48

    I came to this novel expecting a much more of a social slant on the post-apocalyptic theme, detached notes on the disintegration of the social contract and society's decline into Hobbesian anomie, and whilst this is very much present it's Ballard's visceral evocations of the blighted landscape, a kind of environmental externalisation of the narrator's blighted psychological state, that occupies the majority of the novel. This is very much what Ballard excels at and his vocabulary verges on the baroque in its extravagant simile - the most banal scenes and objects are described with reference to things like bone meal, mirrors, embalming, ritual offerings and 'putrid jewels', usually followed by some abstract (and mostly vague) temporal philosophising. recommended to all the eco-critics out there

  • Jorge Jaramillo Villarruel
    2019-02-01 14:11

    Las novelas de Ballard suelen estar plagadas de coincidencias del tipo Deus ex machina que, en otros autores empobrecerían la narración, al grado de hacerla quedar como un artificio inverosímil. la diferencia es que las obras de Ballard son estructuradas como "una ecuación de emociones y relaciones". Los personajes se encuentran constantemente en los momentos precisos, como si se llamaran o tuvieran una cualidad extrasensorial que les permitiera saber a cada momento dónde se encuentran los demás, pero estas casualidades funcionan en la obra ballardiana porque no se trata de relatos naturalistas, pese al realismo con que cuenta sus historias, sino de narraciones simbólicas, casi oníricas. Sus escenarios representan el paisaje interior del o los personajes centrales, y las relaciones entre ellos representan las relaciones de ideas y emociones que ellos experimentan a lo largo de la narración. Esto queda patente en La sequía más que en ninguna otra de sus novelas.La sequía es la historia de un hombre, Charles Ransom, que sufre una grave crisis de identidad cuando el mundo comienza a secarse a falta de lluvia, convirtiéndose en un desierto que es reflejo o se ve reflejado en el paisaje interior de él. El puente que comunica ambas sequías, la interior y la exterior, es una pintura del artista surrealista Yves Tanguy, que representa una escena árida y casi vacía, similar al escenario desértico del cual Ransom quiere huir y al que anhela volver.Esta novela es la segunda de su ciclo postapocalipsis/catástrofes naturales, que se inicia con The Wind from Nowhere, continúa en El mundo sumergido y llega a su culmen con El mundo de cristal.

  • Vanessa
    2019-02-13 09:00

    My recently discovered preference for reading books that were written pre-mobile phones, email and high technology lead me to The Drought. It works especially well in this bleak apocalyptic story of a global cessation of rain brought about by disposal of industrial waste. Water is evaporating rapidly, people are migrating to coastlines, the sea is drying up and those left alive are eking out water and using it as currency.The Drought steers us through a global drought which is lasting 10 years longer than the predicted 3 months and the action covers a further 10 years of the drought. We join Dr Ransom at the beginning of a mass evacuation to the coast from towns and villages everywhere. At the coast there is a daily struggle to survive through lack of water, the inevitable hardships and criminalities in the communities where governmental control has been lost to gangs who now control the beaches.Hope eventually comes when Ransom spots a live lion, presumably escaped from the nearest zoo, which is in Ransom's hometown of Hamilton. Along with three others he ventures back to their hometown in search of the water the lion must have been drinking to get as far as the coast – a distance of about 100 miles.There they do indeed find water, along with already disturbed characters that have gone even more insane during the last 10 years of the drought - and who now brutally and violently control the remnants of the town and the water. Just as Ransom is about to give up completely, he senses raindrops and so, finally, salvation.Ballard's writing style is so imaginative,descriptive and yes, poetic, that I could completely visualize the scenes and the people's desperation. Well recommended.

  • Peter
    2019-01-16 16:13

    I could be wrong but I seem to remember that Ballard didn't want to be known as a Science-Fiction writer. I can see how he would think that since there's very little Science in this book. How the disaster happened is dealt with in a sentence or two. What he's focused on here, and he does the same thing in other books of his that I've read, is speculate on how people would react in a given disastrous situation. In his view, people will not react well in a disaster. It's not so much Sci-Fi as maybe 'Absurdist Horror' or maybe 'Social Realist Speculative Fiction'. The book is filled with odd incidents of how horrible people can be. Yet it is entirely believable because he does make sure to include at least a little bit of humanity in the horror. In that way he's not like James Herbert, who wrote several end of the world horror stories that are unrelentingly bleak. Ballard at least does include scenes of kindness amid the break down of civilization.This past year a film was released that was based on one of his other books, 'High Rise'. Some reviews I read complained that there was no second act to the film, it just went directly to the violence when the lights go out. That's his point though, once something like this happens, wether it's no rain, too much rain, the lights going out, whatever it is, it won't take much before we're barricaded in our homes or in the streets killing each other. There's no second act, once the disaster comes, it's survival of the fittest.

  • David Williamson
    2019-02-15 10:17

    There are serious moments you think this book is really going to kick into gear and then doesn't. Aspects of the book are unclear and at times I wasn't sure what was going on. It is not the easiest or flowing of books, and it is rather unengaging. However, ...The use of language with regards to time is very good, as the drought is in its first couple of months at the beginning of the book, society rapidly deteriorates, creating a suspended sensation of time, it is merely weeks after the drought has started but already so much has changed. Then the second part is 10 years later, but you don't know this till a few chapters on, is very effective at warping the sense of time, it both being timeless and very close. Also, comments on the loss of identity through the act of survival was very interesting and probably helps if you know Ballards background.For a dystopia the book does have a positive ending, which is cool, but adds very little and feels unnecessary. I will be expecting more from my next Ballard book, as after his death he is being pushed as a major 20th century writer.

  • Baal Of
    2019-01-16 08:52

    Oh but don't you understand that this apocalyptic tableau represents humanity's ceaseless struggle against its own repressed psycho-sexual longings, reflected in the eternal conflict of male vs. female vis-à-vis the phallic paddles attempting to control the last vestiges of the feminine water resources, enveloped by the pollution of capitalistic hegemony, trapped and removed, ultimately desired and lusted after but eternally disappearing, hated and repressed, never understood through the hazy dreamlike unconnection to reality that all are doomed to endure,...Or is it just a tedious exercise in florid prose designed to make a certain subset of people declare literary brilliance has been obtained because, well, panties are wet. Maybe that's an inappropriate metaphor for such a bone white salty dry book. A book that is incoherent, makes no sense under it's pollution protein skin, pretends to go somewhere, then doesn't.And then it rains.The end.

  • Terence
    2019-02-03 14:08

    So glad I finally grabbed "The Drought" or "The Burning World" (in keeping with the title "The Drowned World"). Anyway its a turn definitely in the realm of semi-apocalytpic sci-fi. There's the similar alternate civilization like you find in "High Rise", but here instead of a tower block and the literal stratification of class, civilization is sprawled out of control as water vanishes. The water never really goes away, but there's an environmental element at play that is really interesting. I found it quite scary actually by the end of the first part as the survivors move towards the ocean and society really breaks down. It has some great almost the opposite of "Waterworld" meets maybe "Mad Max" kind of ideas. Anyway there's some great characters and this weird shuffling of familial and societal relations via this tumult.

  • Jane
    2019-02-06 15:50

    It's hard going. Nothing happens in a normal way. A siren hoots warningly, a woman moves languidly, hot sunlight spangles...People don't sit they sprawl. There are about ten analogies per page and I find myself skim reading to try and get to the point.What does a perspiring Pikeman lunge like?! Really?Some sentences are so over the top I feel like I'm reading an English essay. I feel like the author is frightfully clever with words and is so busy painting pictures it slows the pace of the book too much while you read slowly the back to back adjectives and try to make sense of the construct This book is for literary snobs not me

  • F.R.
    2019-02-15 16:12

    I haven’t explored Ballard’s early, more traditional, sci-fi work as much as I should have – but having now read The Drought I will certainly fill that gap in my knowledge. This is a brilliant end of the world story, where our planet runs out of water and mankind does its best to survive. Brilliantly written, this new desert world is brought to life expertly by one of the finest imaginations of the 20th century.

  • Hojaplateada
    2019-01-17 13:00

    Del estilo El Dia de La Creación, El mundo sumergido, 0 El mundo de cristal, entre otras novelas apocalípticas, este es otro gran libro de Ballard