65 Following

Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

The Borrowers
Mary Norton, Joe Krush, Beth Krush
Progress: 67/192 pages
More Letters of Charles Darwin, Vol 2
Francis Darwin, Charles Darwin
Progress: 180/501 pages
Hainish Novels & Stories, Vol. 2
Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 107/789 pages
Too Brave to Dream: Encounters with Modern Art
R.S. Thomas
Progress: 66/96 pages
The Essential Shakespeare
Ted Hughes
Progress: 66/259 pages
Canaletto: Bernardo Bellotto Paints Europe
Andreas Schmacher
Progress: 212/360 pages
Introduction to Topology
Bert Mendelson
Progress: 10/224 pages
Basics of Plasma Astrophysics
Claudio Chiuderi, Marco Velli
Progress: 58/250 pages
A Student's Guide to Lagrangians and Hamiltonians
Patrick Hamill
Progress: 7/180 pages
The Complete Plays and Poems
E.D. Pendry, J.C. Maxwell, Christopher Marlowe

Super-Cannes, J.G. Ballard

Super-Cannes - J.G. Ballard

Anyone who's read say, half a dozen Ballard novels could probably identify this as such from the first paragraph.  A first paragraph that stayed with me through-out the book. Indeed I re-read it twice, once at about the 1/3 mark and once right after finishing the book.


One is rapidly led to believe that this novel deals with all of Ballard's normal tropes; medical doctor characters, nutters, aviation, social microcosms, veneer of civilisation which is easily ripped away. In the case of one of these, though, one is being mis-led, which makes the book more interesting. Instead of pulling a Lord of the Flies re-set (see High Rise, Concrete Island, Rushing to Paradise) here the characters, despite all working in a giant science park on the French Riviera, do not lose their connections to the outside world completely - at least not physically, making the book more realistic than say, High Rise, where everybody inexplicably chooses to give up work and never leave their middle-class tower apartment block home. Most of the characters still behave like a-moral aliens or depraved loonies, however. This seems to have been one of Ballard's core beliefs; we're all just pretending to be sane until we can get to a situation where we don't have to pretend anymore. I don't really buy it.


There's a murder mystery at the core of the book, which provides a narrative drive sometimes absent with Ballard. Who did what and why seems to be pretty much wrapped up by about half way and then the book meanders for about 100p before further revelations wind things up again for a denouement that is quite satisfying, particularly the very end.


If there's a real antagonist in this book, it's the psychiatrist, Wilder, who's views are disturbing. I immediately reacted against them; this must be wrong! But I had to stop and seriously think things through to see where the error was hidden. A novel hasn't made me do that since Starship Troopers. It's one of those scary philosophies all the more dangerous and superficially plausible because there is just enough truth mixed with the insanity.


Ballard is such a hit-and-miss writer. High Rise was an unmitigated disaster, Rushing to Paradise is a bull's eye, this is somewhere between. More interesting for being a believable setting, more readable for its use of murder-mystery trappings, clever in the character arc of the protagonist, but suffering still from being too much of a re-tread of Ballard's basic themes, never-the-less worthwhile.