The Drowned World

Narrated by: Julian Elfer
Length: 5 hrs and 47 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (188 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A new generation discovers "the most original English writer of the last century" (China Miéville, The Nation).

Appearing in audio for the first time, this neglected Ballardian masterpiece promises to be a touchstone for environmentalists the world over.

First published in 1962, J.G. Ballard’s mesmerizing and ferociously imaginative novel not only gained him widespread critical acclaim but also established his reputation as one of the finest writers of a generation. The Drowned World imagines a terrifying world in which global warming has melted the ice caps and primordial jungles have overrun a tropical London. Set during the year 2145, this novel follows biologist Dr. Robert Kearns and his team of scientists as they confront a cityscape in which nature is on the rampage and giant lizards, dragonflies, and insects fiercely compete for domination. Both an unmatched biological mystery and a brilliant retelling of Heart of Darkness - complete with a mad white hunter and his hordes of native soldiers - this “powerful and beautifully clear” (Brian Aldiss) work becomes a thrilling adventure with “an oppressive power reminiscent of Conrad” (Kingsley Amis).

©1962 J.G. Ballard. Copyright renewed 1990 by J.G. Ballard. Introduction copyright 2012 by Martin Amis (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Nothing endures so long as fear

I promise God. I promise I've learned my lesson. I'll review these books sooner. I loved this book, dear God, but now I have to go back to my lizard brain memory to recall why. Oh, yeah, because nobody seems to have figured out 21st Century global clusterfuckery as early as the 60s quite as spot-on as J.G. Ballard (ok, perhaps PKD, or Pynchon). It is hard to read this and not feel strapped-on between Heart of Darkness and some global meltdown conference on Global Warming (oh, hell, was that another piece of the Antartica that just banged into the ocean?). One of my favorite things about Ballard is even in the early 1960s, the guy was the masterglazier of form. I mean it could nail a swollen river with plants, iguanas, lagoons, aligators, biological memories. It is a warm freakshow and a dream that oozes a dystopian anxiety that feels just around the corner.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Lyrical, strange, lovely, haunting

This was one of the more unusual books I have ever read. Most science fiction tends to be focused on a scientific idea, which the author extrapolates out to the future to examine what the repercussions of this idea might be. Usually the repercussions examined are societal, or governmental, or even economic. But in this book, the repercussions are entirely personal. In about two short sentences, Ballard quickly dispenses with the “science,” explaining that there were some sun spots, these made the sun get hotter, all the ice on the Earth has melted, the continents have been drowned and all that is left of mankind is living near the north pole. The rest of the book follows various characters as they react to this new world, each in their own way, although all seem to be quite mad. Playing with the idea that Jurassic weather would bring up Jurassic memories from deep within the human brain, the author does a terrific job depicting how the hallucinogenic dreams and uterine longings of each character mesmerize them and draw them ever further into the growing jungle. There are many gorgeous descriptions of the landscape, the sunlight and the rising waters and the way nature is swallowing up the buildings, roads and other artifacts of human civilization. Even the somewhat cardboard villain serves an important purpose, showing that these artifacts are useless and trying to hold onto the past is a futile gesture. It is a lyrical and strange and lovely and haunting book with images I will not soon forget.

[I listened to this as an audio book read by Julian Elfer, who did an excellent job.]

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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EGO AGAINST ID

MESMERIC INFLAMED DISK OF THE SPECTRAL SUN
This is the kind of book most editors and academia love. Nothing wrong with that, but if your just a regular Joe like me, you would like a plot. The language is beautiful and it is fun to daydream about this type of world. The first hour fulfilled that and it was great. To go from a poem to a novel, I need characters, a plot and something happening. This book had none of that. It was just a reaction to the watered world.

32 people found this helpful

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Climate change dystopia

It's always disheartening to realize that the most celebrated, imaginative writers of science fiction cannot imagine their way out of race and sex relations of their own time. While this is a fascinating premise for our climate change times (although in this novel, the climate change is not caused my humans), it gets bogged down by a complete lack of imagination around how humans might relate to each other in this Drowned World. Hint: per Ballard, black people are subservient and women are coquettish. Many of the main characters are given not just full names but titles--Dr., Colonel, Lieutenant--while the black characters are either left nameless or simply given a nickname like "big Cesar."

The narrator's choices serve to enhance the racism in the text as our main characters still speak a sort of King's English while Big Caesar is voiced with some kind of Afro-Caribbean accent I can't quite place. I suspect that if humanity was reduced to a shrunken population living together at the arctic and antarctic poles, our accents might not be quite so regionally and racially defined but this isn't my racist and sexist dystopia, it's J.G. Ballard's and Julian Elfer's.

If you somehow don't mind the race and gender missteps, I'd say that I found Drowned World a more realistic and interesting premise than High-Rise, but a less engaging story overall.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Prophetic story about climate change

One of Ballard's smaller-scale novels, though I believe it is linked to a series of books with similar, environmentally themed stories. Amazing that he foresaw how important climate change would be, years before most people had even heard of the idea.

The writing of this thoughtful, psychological novel is very high quality, and I enjoyed listening to it, especially as read by the narrator. His pace and inflection are perfect, and the accents that he created for the dialogue are amazing. It's really a performance, not just a reading.

3 people found this helpful

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Pretty pointless

Just didn't care for this book at all. I kept thinking I had missed something when it just ends without much resolution.

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Great read from the 60s. Classic Stuff.

Will listen to this one again. I could feel the topical forest. Great take on the future.... from the 60s.

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great book

This is a great book. It made my long drive shorter. I recommend it to who likes a bit of sci-fi and potential romance

2 people found this helpful