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Bienvenidos A Metro-Centre (2006)

by J.G. Ballard(Favorite Author)
3.36 of 5 Votes: 2
review 1: This was my first J.G. Ballard novel and it was good enough that I'll likely read at least one more. Philosopher John Gray has said repeatedly that he formed a large portion of his view of human nature from Ballard's novels, so I was curious to look for the parallels. They are definitely there. The two men share many of the same insights and in my opinion a few of the same flaws. Gray's ideas about humanity are very coordinated and specific at the macro level but often seem to leave no place for individuality. Likewise, Kingdom Come is a highly functional parable, but it's somewhat threadbare in terms of personality. Both Ballard and Gray have elaborate things to say about the forest, but neither is much concerned with distinguishing the trees.The main thrust of Kingdom Co... moreme sketches an overt connection between consumerism and fascism. There were times when this proximity felt natural and there were times when it felt forced. The psychological trajectory that Ballard sets up from mall walker to frothing lunatic seems quite believable at first, but as the plot advances it begins to veer off into deep space. After a while, some connections began to feel contrived and some of the dialogue seemed hyperbolic and over serious. It seemed to me a little unnecessary to work this angle so hard. After all, is it necessary to link consumerism with fascism so inextricably for us to take seriously it's perils?The book has a steady pace, but did drag a bit near the rather luke-warm ending. The main character is an ex-advertising man named Richard who rarely seems to have any emotions about anything. Through much of the book he half searches for his father's murderer with a kind of detached curiosity that I found myself mirroring in regards to him. Overall he seemed a bit of a stock character, and unfortunately he was not an exception.The middle section of the book was by far the most interesting. Ballard's characters may lack nuance, but his intricate explorations of social dynamics provide the real show. The sections detailing the herd mentality of the football fanatics were fascinating. For fellow Americans, I'd recommend a few minutes searching the words "football hooligans" or "football riots" to show you just how close to the truth those passages are. Nothing short of the cable going out could bring us out into the streets like that. He had a very keen eye for the ways in which our primal instincts are still at work even within the sophisticated simulacra of our manufactured environments.If the story is essentially there just to give narrative form to these ideas, I find that doesn't bother me as much as it might bother others. That said, some authors (Don Delillo comes to mind) can fill a story with compelling characters and social commentary quite seamlessly. I'm told some other Ballard books do pull this off, so I will probably try another.
review 2: Reviewing this book straight after completion may not give the same rating as I would give after some gentle reflection.I feel that Kingdom Come had a very strong and gradual build up with constant tension rising and intrigue building in each paragraph. The sense that something is coming is so exciting and compulsive yet I felt that the reading of this book needed to be measured almost rationed as I wanted to savour every part of it. For me the result of the build up is not as satisfying as I thought it might be and the strange plot turns out to be rather thin and in some ways almost a little predictable in a novel however unlikely in reality.This does not take anything away from the writing style and whilst I am not motivated enough to want to start the book again I may wish to revisit sometime in the future and reappraise the latter parts.I will however be looking at other material from this author.On reflection I feel the novel is comparable to both 1984 and Brave New World in the way it is broken down into distinct sections and does leave me a little hollow, almost let down at the end as they did.This is a contrast to A Handmaid's Tale and Wool where what happened in the course of the story was often quite unpalatable but I still finished wanting more.I know it deserves much more than a three but I'm almost hesitant to award a four and would go for a 3.5 if possible.Recommended read but be prepared to discover that the catch is maybe not as good as the chase in this one. less
Reviews (see all)
Creepy, but I had a little difficulty parsing the motivations of some of the main characters.
So incredibly great, so surreal, and so sad to think this will be the last Ballard novel...
I really didn't like this one. Super Cannes was much better, on a similar theme.
I don't think I got this one.
A load of twaddle.
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