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url 2017-03-15 03:26
New York 2140 Offers a Fascinating Tour of a Drowned Manhattan
New York 2140 - Kim Stanley Robinson

I am not fucking around: this is a great Kim Stanley Robinson novel. It's got everything I like about him: a bunch of hugely nerdy digressions, some legit science, a little light-hearted didacticism, and words words words. This man can write. Ok, sure, the plot is loose, but who even needs a plot when you've got a world like this, like ours but in extremis


My latest at B&N SciFi. 

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review 2017-01-15 00:00
The Drowned World: A Novel (50th Anniversary)
The Drowned World: A Novel (50th Anniversary) - J.G. Ballard,Martin Amis This is a prophetic story about the flooding of the world. The story and character development start slow but do get better. Ballard also introduces a twist that all creatures are devolving to their Triassic equivalent, including some humans, due to genetic memory.

All in all this is a decent read if you give it time to develop.
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review 2014-06-18 00:00
The Drowned World: A Novel (50th Anniversary)
The Drowned World: A Novel (50th Anniversary) - J.G. Ballard,Martin Amis This is my second Ballard novel and I think that he was caught on a theme and was compelled to write a novel around it. In [b:Crash|70241|Crash|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1281416649s/70241.jpg|68058] he obsessed over technology and perversion. In The Drowned World he obsesses over reversions to primordial states--the planet reverting to prehistoric jungle, mankind reverting to pre-civilized social norms, a person reverting from adulthood to the womb. Where I found the repetition of words in Crash to enhance the story, I didn't connect with it in The Drowned World.

None of this is to say that I didn't find the book enjoyable, just that Ballard was less skillful in his relentless pursuit of theme and it took away the impact that comes with feeling what a novel is about rather than it telling you what it is about.

To be fair, this was his first novel. I wouldn't recommend it to someone looking for their next summer read or great classic, but placed in context, it contains the seeds of things I liked in Crash and builds on the skill honed through writing short fiction.
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review 2014-03-20 00:00
The Drowned World: A Novel (50th Anniversary)
The Drowned World: A Novel (50th Anniversary) - J.G. Ballard,Martin Amis J.G. Ballard, what an interesting author, they broke the mold when they made him. When I started reading sf in the 80s I had the impression that Ballard specializes in global ecological disaster scenario, what with The Drowned World, [b:The Burning World|15830700|The Aviator (The Burning World 1)|Gareth Renowden|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347928660s/15830700.jpg|21565477], and [b:The Crystal World|70255|The Crystal World|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1434120524s/70255.jpg|937339]. A sort of go-to guy for a “dot-dot-dot World” apocalyptic fiction. Then I read [b:Concrete Island|70251|Concrete Island|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386924909s/70251.jpg|1232126] and [b:Empire of the Sun|56674|Empire of the Sun|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1338519188s/56674.jpg|55232] and realized Ballard cannot be pigeonholed so simply.

The Drowned Worldis one of his earlier novels from his apocalyptic phase. If you are looking for an ecological thriller where masses of people are stampeding away from a gigantic tidal wave, you will need to find a new tree to bark up. While there are some thrilling moments toward the end, on the whole, I would describe the mood of this book as contemplative. From the first chapter most the world has already been submerged, thanks to solar radiation that melted the polar ice-caps. This bit of hard sci-fi is quite well written in the book but subsequent to this exposition the novel is more concerned with the psychological impact on the main characters, particularly Dr. Robert Kerans, through whose point of view the (third person) narrative is focused.

For some reason, the environment of the flooded world is causing a gradual regression or devolution on the creatures living on it. People are having bizarre nightmares sparked by racial memories. Later on a piratical villain named Strangman shows up and the beginning of mankind’s mental devolution can be seen through him.

This is an intriguing, but not easy to read, book. Something about this book’s narrative tone comes across as rather detached and I could not feel much involvement in the plight of the characters. They are not uninteresting, but none of them is sympathetic. I wonder if this is typical of Ballard’s prose style. I have read a few of his books, but that was decades ago when I was in my teens and I cannot remember much about those books. I do know that he is not a sf author I ever find easy to read like Asimov, Heinlein or Clarke, he is more akin to Le Guin though somewhat less accessible. There is clearly a literary quality to his writing and he often has me reaching for the dictionary.

The world of this book is quite vividly described, the image of the drowned cities is quite evocative, and the drained city even more so. There is an odd kind of beauty to it. There are mutated animals and giant insects in this book, but they are a part of the novel’s props rather than monstrosities to be battled.

The Drowned World is well worth reading as something unusual and unpredictable. It is one of those rare books that I enjoy more in retrospect when I think about it than while I was actually reading it. It certainly makes want me to read [b:Crash|70241|Crash|J.G. Ballard|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1281416649s/70241.jpg|68058] and other Ballard novels I have read and forgotten about.
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review 2013-05-09 00:00
The Drowned World - J.G. Ballard,Martin Amis The sun has gone mad. The ice has melted, and the continual flooding has covered much of the world with water. Temperatures have risen to the point where humanity has relocated to the Arctic and Antarctic circles just to survive. The result is that cities like London have become lagoons, surrounded by jungles and with only the top floors of the tallest buildings above water.

That's the setting of The Drowned World, and it's by far the best thing about the book. Ballard has quite a way with descriptions here, making his dystopian London vividly real. Yes, it is rather more extreme than most global warming scenarios would call for, but Ballard made it thoroughly believable. And yet it's still, by its very nature, a surreal landscape from a dream, or a nightmare.

The plot and the characters, on the other hand... Not strengths here, no. The plot is rather thin, and deals mostly with the main character, and a few others, mentally regressing in the primordial atmosphere. I'm not sure I really bought into the whole concept, though that may well be a problem more with the fairly weak and shallow characters. Only the villain has had any serious work done in rounding him out, and he is certainly a memorable character. Everybody else, even the main character, are little more than cardboard cutouts. With bonus racism and sexism for good measure. The only female character is nothing more than a prop for the male characters to maneuver around, and there's an uncomfortable air of minstrelsy around the black characters. I could have done without, to say the least.

I had to give some serious thought to my rating for this book. I give very high marks to the setting, world building, and descriptions. But everything else is so underwhelming (and sometimes offensive) that I had to give this two stars.
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