From J.G. Ballard, author of Crash and Cocaine Nights comes his extraordinary vision of an African forest that turns all in its path to crystal.
Through a 'leaking' of time, the West African jungle starts to crystallize. Trees are metamorphosed into enormous jewels. Crocodiles encased in second glittering skins lurch down the river. Pythons with huge blind gemstone eyes rear in heraldic poses.
Fearing this transformation as a herald of the apocalypse, most flee the area in terror, afraid to face a catastrophe they cannot understand. But some, dazzled and strangely entranced, remain to drift through this dreamworld forest. Travelling through this gilded land, a doctor tries to resist its strange allure in pursuit of his ex-mistress, while a tribe of lepers search for Paradise…
In this tour de force of the imagination, Ballard transports the listener into one of his most unforgettable landscapes.
©1966 J. G. Ballard (P)2014 Audible Studios
I've been reading for years about how great J.G. Ballard is, but I just don't get it. Seems like basically pulp, and pulp in which not much happens. Read The Drowned World, but that wasn't much better.
I am certain that I will be reading and rereading this novel for the rest of my days by the light of the prismatic sun evermore in receipt of its crystallized wisdom.
I feel I must announce my bias upfront: I am a fan of both Ballard as a writer, and Barrett as a narrator. Even with that bias, I truly felt that this particular audiobook was a 'perfect marriage' - a five-star narration that enhances a vivid, evocative text. I would definitely recommend this audiobook as an introduction to early Ballard.
A lot of readers - even Ballard fans - don't like this book: some common criticisms are that the characters are unbearable and their motivations ambiguous, the descriptions of landscapes interminable, the symbolism heavy-handed and the ending, in particular, irreconcilable. I would never dare suggest Ballard as 'light-reading', but I nevertheless think that 'The Crystal World' is one of his books that can be read 'simply', as a pure narrative (without interposed analysis). If you are going to approach it in that way, perhaps it is helpful to have in mind Colin Greenland's thesis that it's all about acceptance and acclimatization: seen in this light, the characters' choices may be more relatable.
I do find it interesting that one of the common complaints about 'The Crystal World' is the focus on describing the environment in which the characters find themselves. In this regard, 'The Crystal World' reminds me somewhat of Lem's 'Solaris' - the awesome beauty is almost a distraction from the destructive (and/or transformational) nature of the environment. Jason Heller's take on Ballard as "[u]nimaginable horror meted out in the most disciplined packages" is the one that resonates the most with me. I don't think that there is an extraneous word in 'The Crystal World', and Barrett's subtle narration is the perfect complement.
"Drowned World revisited"
I can only say thank goodness this was not the first Ballard book I ever read. I'd never have picked up another book by this author again if it had been. This is a love story trying not to be. No sooner has Sanders met Louise than he's trying to seduce her and Susanne his old love who is by then married. It seems to me that Ballard writes about himself and feels the need to dominate everyone around him and especially women. In this book Sanders is clearly Ballard. If you've read 'Drowned World' then don't read this one. This is, in essence, a poor man's Drowned World and nothing like as good. It is intriguing and there is some action, but overall a disappointment. There are holes in the plot and it seems to me that Ballard had an idea but didn't think it through properly before committing it to paper. The plot is full of inconstencies and pays no attention to the laws of physics. If you do read this then you'll see what I mean.
"A strange and beautiful journey"
I’ve recently started reading/listening my way through JG Ballard’s novels, and this one is my favourites so far. There is a plot, but it’s not too important. Instead, Ballard focuses on the journey through a beautiful, eery African jungle that is being transformed into crystal. Jewels adorn every branch and shine in the eyes of snakes. The crystallisation doesn’t so much represent death or decay, as transformation. Sean Barrett has a very deep, resonant voice that really brought the prose to life. This might not be for everyone, but I loved it – it was like listening to a long, beautiful and fascinating poem.
"A great read"
Chilling yet beautiful, visionary and yet stark. Not only is there no other book like this in the genre called science fiction, there's just no other book like this in Ballard's library.
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