The Drowned World

  • by J. G. Ballard
  • Narrated by Julian Elfer
  • 5 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

When London is lost beneath the rising tides, unconscious desires rush to the surface in this apocalyptic tale from the author of Crash and Cocaine Nights.
Fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat. London is a swamp; lush tropical vegetation grows up the walls of the Ritz and primeval reptiles are sighted, swimming through the newly formed lagoons. Some flee the capital; others remain to pursue reckless schemes, in the name of science and profit.
While others drain the submerged streets in search of treasure, Dr Robert Kerans - part of a group of intrepid scientists - comes to accept this submarine city and finds himself strangely resistant to the idea of saving it.
First published in 1962, Ballard’s mesmerising and ferociously imaginative novel gained him widespread critical acclaim and established his reputation as one of Britain’s finest writers of science fiction.
J. G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai, where his father was a businessman. After internment in a civilian prison camp, he and his family returned to England in 1946. He published his first novel, The Drowned World, in 1961. His 1984 best seller Empire of the Sun won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was later filmed by Steven Spielberg. His memoir Miracles of Life was published in 2008. J.G. Ballard died in 2009.

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What the Critics Say

“Extraordinarily prescient… Ballard is a prophet” (Philip Pullman, Guardian)
“One of the brightest stars in post-war fiction. This tale of strange and terrible adventure in a world of steaming jungles has an oppressive power reminiscent of Conrad” (Kingsley Amis)
“Powerful and beautifully clear… Ballard’s potent symbols of beauty and dismay inundate the reader’s mind” (Brian Aldiss)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fascinating, but flawed, debut

The Drowned World was Ballard's first novel, and with its imaginative evocation of a submerged London, where iguanas prowl and prominent landmarks slowly sink into the sludge, it shows a huge amount of promise. Particularly fascinating is Ballard's portrayal of the devolution of the human psyche, as it turns towards a primitive state of being, which, Ballard argues, lies dormant in all of us, until triggered. It is clear that this is a writer not quite fully developed, however, as characters are poorly drawn, in particular the sole female character. Dialogue feels quite dated, and there are some questionable portrayals of black characters. I decided to start with this novel before delving into his others, and whilst it is not an entire success, his dystopian world has sufficiently sparked my imagination to make me want to read more. Skip the first chapter though - it is an introduction which is better kept to the end.
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- dillpickle

Drowned by later works

What could easily ruin this book for you is the introduction. It’s written by Martin Amis, who I normally have some time for, but here he gives away so much of the book before you even start to read it. The publishers really should stick this kind of thing at the end.

That aside, three stars is a bit harsh in many ways because this is a good book that's well narrated and when I first read it many years ago the concept was new (at least to me) so it seemed imaginative. However, Ballard has written so many great books that outshine this, the three stars reflect more it's place in his canon than it's quality next to other writers work.

Having said that, it's basic premise (not the flooding) was, for me, total pants and I saw it as capturing the strange state of mind of one individual rather than telling a particularly involving story. Interesting but not great. I felt let down this time round.
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- D. Carver

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-09-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios