With all the attention paid lately to terrorist narratives and novels of suburban malaise, the prescience of Ballard’s last novel, receiving its better-late-then-never American publication after six years, will come as a shock even to hardened veterans of the late author’s psychosexual parables and visceral sci-fi. This is a pitch-black comedy of consumer fascism hooked to wary hero Richard Pearson, a recently unemployed advertising exec who returns to suburban London to investigate his father’s death inside the monolithic Metro-Centre mall at the hands of a machinegun-wielding madman. But something much more sinister is at play, an evil that lurks inside boutiques and car parks, transmitted by commercials that make it seem as if everyone is a suspect except for the killer. Racial violence is on the rise, suburban assassinations and bombings have become as ubiquitous as strip malls, and Metro-Centre looms as a new church awaiting its messiah (or its führer?). Pearson goes deep into a bizarre conspiracy that extends beyond mere capitalist critique to a murderous vision of 21st-century Britain. But it is the connections Ballard makes between anti-Muslim violence, elective insanity, and governments complicit with autocratic corporate agendas that make this novel a compulsory read and a wicked masterpiece of postmodern post-9/11 literature, a chilling vision of things as they are. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/12/2011 Release date: 03/01/2012 Genre: Fiction
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