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Il Mondo Sommerso (1998)

by J.G. Ballard(Favorite Author)
3.57 of 5 Votes: 4
8880894153 (ISBN13: 9788880894155)
Baldini Castoldi Dalai (I Nani)
The Elemental Apocalypse Quartet
review 1: Minor spoilers be ahead...Ballard's first novel, published in 1962, begins with an intriguing premise: fluctuations in solar radiation have melted the ice caps, flooding most of the world and creating new island masses. The extreme rise in temperature has rendered much of the world uninhabitable; a small government run by the UN operates out of the polar regions, and sends small groups of military and scientists to chart the new territories in those areas that could perhaps be reclaimed and study the new flora and fauna, most of it apparently a reversion to the life of the Triassic era of giant lizards and such. The protagonist, Kerans, is a scientist stationed in London with a small crew. Like many others, he begins to experience strange dreams -- almost hallucinations ab... moreout the sun and a desire to roam southward through the extreme tropics. A colleague theorizes that the climatic changes are causing a psychic devolution in humankind, and Kerans and a few others decide to try to ride this "archeopsychological" transformation into humanity's genetically encoded origins. As I say, it's an interesting premise, and the short novel starts off strong by getting the reader into the strange mental state of Kerans and those around him, trapped between their modern selves and some other, primal, less individuated being. But it pretty quickly goes off the rails when they encounter a group of scavengers, led by a bizarre figure named "Strangman" -- apparently a fairly lazy allegorical name indicating that he is a "strange man." It's here that Ballard really lost me, in part because of the weak characterization. Strangman is obviously supposed to be unhinged and somewhat demented, but he just comes off as inconsistent and lacking any sort of recognizable motivation. What's worse, though, is how crazily racist the novel becomes at this point. It was 1962, so perhaps we can give Ballard a pass for referring to Strangman's black crew as "Negroes" and "mulattoes," but they are constantly described as "loping," "like apes," "hulking," "wild" -- basically as subhuman brutes without any discernible character traits besides being one dimensional symbols of "primitive" humanity. Strangman, for his part, is described as a "white devil" at the center of their "voodoo cult." Yeah, it's all a bit gross. Anyway, the novel really loses direction when they enter the story, and it's not until the very last pages when it gets back some of its energy. But Ballard never really fulfills the promise of the novel's central idea. As an ecological text, it presents a fairly compelling and seemingly plausible glimpse of a near future after global catastrophe. But it doesn't really give us a big picture view of this world or its social transformations on the large scale, and its small scale focus is too underdeveloped and simplistic, lacking in meaning and coherence.
review 2: Any review I could give would only parrot those before me. So I will review the reviews. My favorite is Daniel Edelman 04/19/13 and his comparison to Hedley Lamarr, "A never ending whirl of psychobabble and 10 dollar words". My contribution to that is this book is a para-prophetic parable of allegorical proportions which reads at times as if written by Harriet Beecher Stowe or at least Margaret Mitchell.(less) less
Reviews (see all)
Fantastic journey to, not outer space, but inner space, a trademark of J. G. Ballard
Didn't quite get this book.I think I need a re-read.
Ballard is a weirdo
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