Saturday, March 3, 2007

J.G. Ballard - The Complete Short Stories: v. 1

I don't normally take on books with nearly 800 pages. I know... I'm an amateur. But the truth is I find it really hard to keep my enthusiasm for a book up if it, um, overstays its welcome.

I'm currently reading all the Harry Potter books to my little boy, as a bedtime story. First book, if anything, too short. Second, about right, third - okayish, fourth - bit of a struggle, and now I find myself with number 5, ("Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix") is way to long... again, over 700 pages. It's good... but it's getting to be a trial.
So, I was concerned about this book, but it turns out I shouldn't have been. I've sped through it, barely a dull moment, and immediately ordered the second volume.

J.G Ballard did write one of my favourite all-time books, the autobiographical "Empire of the Sun". And he's written a whole raft of interesting novels over the years. Here we have dozens of short stories, all written in the early sixties.
They are, in the main, not science fiction as such. But nearly all contain an 'other-worldliness' which I find quite remarkable. They take place in, perhaps, parallel universes, where things are very like the world we know... but not quite the same.

Several stories take place in "Vermilion Sands", a haunting and mysterious place. in fact, sand is a common theme in this collection. There are an alarming number of stories involving sand dunes stretching into the distance, the sea long gone, a theme thoroughly explored by Ballard in the 1966 novel "The Drought".

Ballard's stories all seem to be hot and dry. They are inhabited by men, mostly disturbed by something, seeking something, escaping something. They are superbly imaginative, beautifully told stories. Just occasionally they just stop inconclusively in that irritating 60's way, but the majority come to a satisfactory conclusion.

They are wordy. In fact, and I'm not kidding, I've ordered a little dictionary to have by my side while read the second volume, because some of his vocabulary is way over my head.

Ballard is a treasure. Here we have bite-sized morsels of his genius.

Highly recommended, 8/10, you could buy it here.

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