J.G. Ballard died yesterday. I was extremely sad to hear this. I thought about doing a whole post about how awesome he is, but I found that I have a hard time articulating exactly what it is I like about his writing. I’m going to try anyway. Even as an english student, I have a hard time analyzing his work and reaching deep enough into them to say anything meaningful. So perhaps this post will be just vague things that I enjoy about his writing, but that’s okay… I’m doing enough English courses as it is.

It pretty much boils down to the fact that Ballard has always been on the cutting edge, and his work is always interesting and never overly didactic. Science Fiction has always been a genre of writing that constantly needs to justify itself, but Ballard’s work has always been easily seen as literature, without the need for qualifiers. He treats the genre relatively seriously, with room for only the darkest of humor to creep in here and there in his stories.

One of the more prevalent ideas that is in his work is the typical science fiction theme of technology slowly eroding all of mankind’s humanity. Ballard doesn’t write about this through the use of giant robots or nanotech augmentations though, he likes his dystopias to be not that far removed from real life…. and he is a MASTER of the dystopian novel. He really knows how to set up a landscape in a story, and then force that landscape upon the characters. Seriously, if you’re into that kind of thing at all, go read his stuff.

He frequently writes about empty characters, but somehow manages to make them seem interesting. I don’t have the same hang ups that many readers do when they complain that a book doesn’t have any nice characters in it. Ballard has a gift for making characters that aren’t necessarily dislikable, but aren’t the type of people you would ever want to hang out with in real life. He can bring you close enough to them to realize that they are beyond help, but still almost pity them.

A common idea in his books is the notion of chaos lurking beneath the surface of an otherwise peaceful world. There is rarely a force of true evil in his stories, it’s often circumstance, or the nature of the landscape itself, that brings the chaos level to a breaking point. I don’t know why, but his books with this kind of feel to them tend to be my favorites. Perhaps they appeal to the little teenaged anarchist in me.

I’m sad to say that I haven’t kept up with his more recent stuff though. I have a copy of Kingdom Come that sits in my book pile, taunting me. It entices me to read it each and every time I glance upon its cover. I’ve told myself that I’ll read it this summer countless times, but maybe this is the kick in the ass to really catch up on his work.

This is your kick in the ass too.


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