Anachronistic climate fic — the last days of the British Empire…

The Drowned World
by J.G. BallardWill Self (Introducer), James Boswell (Illustrator)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A look at the near future after an astronomical disaster, leading to a large-scale climate change and flooding of the world.

Very reflective, with great imagery and an interesting take on mental regression, brought on by nature returning to an earlier geological age. From my edition‘s introduction: “haunting tale of de-evolution amid the fetid swamps and submarine cities of a second Triassic Age…“

I liked the first half, aka the setting of the scene, but the later part felt a bit…. too slow and esoteric? 

Probably visionary at the time of publication, parts of this novella have not aged well. During the first three chapters I kept wondering how the details of this story would have looked like, if it had been written now instead of 60 years ago.

The way the black characters were depicted is problematic from today‘s point of view, with a pretty casual racism. And the only female character was stuck in the last century instead of 200 years in the future, reduced to her looks. Add some dinner jackets and this felt very much like the last days of the British Empire. I wonder if Ballard could not have come up with something less stereotypical and a more futuristic setting. All the technology, for example the diving equipment and the ships, definitely felt like the middle of the 20th century.

I liked the relationship between the three central characters, what little there was, but was also bored through wide stretches of this read. Finishing this was pure stubbornness.

Apparently a retelling of Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness. Which I have not read, so I can‘t say how it compares.