The Drowned World
Puzzling, mesmerising catastrophe novel from arguably the most important post-war British author.
When the US publisher of The Drowned World received the manuscript for JG Ballard's second science fiction catastrophe novel, he reputedly complained to the author: "You've got the end wrong!" For in all Ballard's catastrophe stories, the heroes don't try to flee the approaching cataclysm: they instead move willingly towards it. The Drowned World, with its scenario of solar radiation melting the ice caps, resulting in the almost complete submersion of the great cities of the world, seems at first most notable for its incredible prescience in the realm of climate change.
But the novelist's concern was less the state of the outside world, than that of one's inner space. Ballard sees himself as a surrealist, and his characters could be said to embody Freudian impulses. In effect, the transformed landscapes of his catastrophe novels represent the subconscious, and his protagonists are compelled by the Freudian drives of not only Eros (the sex drive) but also Thanatos (the death drive), hence their propensity to move towards the catastrophe, rather than away from it. A key work in kick-starting the New Wave of British science fiction.