It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how to talk about 98 short stories written over 40 years. But this was an interesting and exhausting reading experience. There’s a lot going on here. So to begin at the beginning, JG Ballard was a British science fiction writer, known mostly to me via the 1995 David Cronenberg movie Crash and the Stephen Spielberg’s movie Empire of the Sun. A few years ago I saw the trailer for High Rise and was blown away. The movie itself is not great, but it got me looking into his writing a lot more and the result is that I read that novel and another very similar novel Concrete Island. Both novels are about the logical and illogical extensions of modern society into two distinct areas of life: modern living and highway culture.
This collection does a lot more of the same but also reminds you in no uncertain terms that JG Ballard began writing sci fi in the 1950s. He’s very interested in space travel (conceptionally) and time-travel, as well as the sort of cultural and novelistic implications of quantum mechanics and time.
Within this story collection are a handful of other collections, namely Vermillion Sands, about a modern planned community that uses microtech and psychotropic computing to create living space. There’s a number of other linked stories as well, where the same character are part of a series of stories and not just one-offs.
It’s a LOT of book and I read it in about a week, and it was pretty intense. Because of the linked nature of a lot of the stories and the thematic and narrative consistency throughout, I think it worked as one big book in a kind of way. Of course, I am left with having spent a lot of energy given over to Ballard, and it will be awhile before I read more of his novels I think.