cover image J.G. Ballard

J.G. Ballard

D. Harlan Wilson. Univ. of Illinois, $22 (208p) ISBN 978-0-252-08295-5

Wilson (Dr. Identity), a novelist, turns to criticism in this study, the first full-length monograph to treat novelist Ballard’s entire career. Arguing that Ballard’s emphasis on “inner space” over outer space was perhaps the most influential development of 1960s and ’70s new wave science fiction, Wilson attempts to shed light on Ballard’s role in the “megatext” of the science fiction genre as a whole. He gives background information on Ballard’s childhood growing up in an internment camp in Shanghai during WWII, and sketches out how his work was conceived and how it was received by the larger science fiction community. Separate chapters deal with Ballard’s short fiction, the first four disaster novels, the “cultural disaster” novels such as The Atrocity Exhibition, autobiographical works such as Empire of the Sun, and the author’s final books. Though Ballard’s later work was often branded literary fiction, Wilson argues that Ballard will always remain “an icon of science fiction against which other authors measure themselves.” For example, he sides with French philosopher Jean Baudrillard (and against Ballard himself) in characterizing the bizarre erotic novel Crash as “a work of ‘unauthorized’ science fiction” about the contemporary relationship between humanity and machines. Scholars and fans of Ballard will find this study comprehensive and stimulating. (Nov.)