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The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard [Hardcover]

J. G. Ballard , Martin Amis
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2009
The American publication of The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard is a landmark event. Increasingly recognized as one of the greatest and most prophetic novelists, J. G. Ballard was a writer of enormous inventive powers, who, in the words of Malcolm Bradbury, possessed, like Calvino, a remarkable gift for filling the empty deprived spaces of modern life with the invisible cities and the wonder worlds of imagination. Best known for his novels, such as Empire of the Sun and Crash, Ballard rose to fame as the ideal chronicler of disturbed modernity (The Observer). Perhaps less known, though equally brilliant, were his devastatingly original short stories, which span nearly fifty years and reveal an unparalleled prescience so unique that a new word Ballardian had to be invented. Ballard, who wrote that short stories are the loose change in the treasury of fiction, easily ignored beside the wealth of novels available, regretted the fact that the public had increasingly lost its ability to appreciate them. With 98 pulse-quickening stories, this volume helps restore the very art form that Ballard feared was comatose. Ballard s inimitable style was already present in his early stories, most of them published in science fiction magazines. These stories are surreal, richly atmospheric and splendidly elliptical, featuring an assortment of psychotropic houses, time-traveling assassins, and cities without clocks. Over the next fifty years, his fierce imaginative energy propelled him to explore new topics, including the dehumanization of technology, the brutality of the corporation, and nuclear Armageddon. Depicting the human soul as being enervated and corrupted by the modern world (New York Times), Ballard began to examine themes like overpopulation, as in Billenium, a claustrophobic imagining of a world of 20 billion people crammed into four-square-meter rooms, or the false realities of modern media, as in the classic Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan, a faux-psychological study of the sexual and violent reactions elicited by viewing Reagan s face on television, in which Ballard predicted the unholy fusion of pop culture and sound-bite politics thirteen years before Reagan became president. Given Ballard s heightened powers of perception, it is astonishing that the dehumanized world that he apprehended so acutely neither diminished his own febrile imagination nor his engagement with mankind, evident in every story, including two new ones for this American edition. So eerily prophetic is his vision, so commanding are his literary gifts, the import and insight of J. G. Ballard s deeply humanistic and transcendent works can only grow in years to come."

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The marvel of most of these tales is how instantly comprehensible their alternate realities are when so little is explained and how believable they are, too, thanks to Ballard's unflappable narrative voice. With unerring instinct, he finds the ordinariness in the most preposterous scenarios, thus connecting them in detail and tone to our own reality....There are still two Ballard novels and a memoir awaiting U.S. publication. Let's hope the overdue appearance of this volume means the rest are on their way. --Michael Upchurch"

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Tales from a real genius mind Aug. 3 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If your a J.G. Ballard fan, don't wait any longer. Just buy this book. If you have heard about this fantastic author and you are a little curious, just buy this book. If you are a fan of Science-Fiction, buy this book. If you know how to read, buy this book. Do you get the idea ?
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars J.G. Ballard Complete works Dec 29 2011
By paul
Listed as the complete works of J.G. Ballard. However it is the complete works of short fiction and does not include his longer works, i.e. novels. I am just beginning to read it now and am sure that I will enjoy it. I was a little disappointed. P.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sui Generis Sept. 18 2009
By Bruce Canwell - Published on Amazon.com
We shall not see the like of J.G. Ballard again -- and is that not the highest praise any writer can receive? Ballard adroitly used calm, almost transparent prose to create surreal story-scapes and characters who intellectually realize they are headed into trouble, but are emotionally and viscerally incapable of resisting Chaos's pull.

Now we have "The Complete Short Stories of J.G. Ballard," tracing this major author's development during a career that spanned from the mid-1950s into the early years of 21st Century.

In 2001, Ballard said, "Short stories are the loose change in the treasury of fiction" -- this book is a tall stack of change indeed. The values of each piece vary (as must be the case, by definition, for any "Complete" retrospective), but each one will repay the investment of your reading time.

Highly, highly recommended.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive J.G. Ballard Short-Story Collection Oct. 26 2009
By Terry Sunday - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I first learned about the work of British science fiction writer J.G. Ballard as a junior-high-school student, when I bought (for 50 cents!) a brand-new 1962 Berkeley Medallion paperback edition of his prescient end-of-the-world novel "The Drowned World" (I still have it). His surreal, evocative story of a dysfunctional group of people exploring the steaming, verdant lagoons of flooded cities on an Earth transformed into "the forgotten paradises of the reborn Sun" blew me away at the time. I eagerly bought Ballard's novels and short-story collections as they appeared for years afterwards, until I drifted away from science fiction. Now, with my interest in sci-fi rekindled and with "The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard," I again have at my fingertips, in one convenient volume, all of his stories that made such a strong impression on me as a youth.

If you're reading this review, you probably already know about the late Mr. Ballard's unique, dystopian, psychologically themed, often controversial sci-fi work. So I won't try to sell you on him as an author. If you like his work, you're probably already at least mildly interested in "The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard." If you don't know or like his work--and it most definitely is not for everyone--then you'll have no interest in the book. So, assuming you're in the former category, is this a book you should consider buying?

My answer is an enthusiastic "Yes!" This collection is a fantastic volume, a fantastic value and a "must-have" for any real Ballard fan. When this massive, heavy tome arrived at my front door, I eagerly opened it, in the proper way for a new book, and then flipped through it, savoring the sheer wealth of creativity captured in small print on its 1,199 crisp pages. Then I checked the Table of Contents. The 98 stories included were published between 1956 and 1992. All of my favorites were there--long-remembered classics such as "The Voices of Time," "The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D," "A Question of Re-Entry" and "The Cage of Sand." Looking further, I came to a sudden realization. I had never read about half of the stories--almost the entire second half of the book. So now I face the pleasant prospect of not only re-reading stories that I've already enjoyed, but also of discovering new ones for the first time. There's not much in the way of "extras" (in DVD parlance)--just a 3-1/2-page Introduction by Martin Amis and a one-page Author's Introduction written in 2001. But the stories here speak for themselves, and the book really needs nothing more. Most highly recommended.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant stories Dec 20 2011
By William Branch - Published on Amazon.com
I've always enjoyed J. G. Ballard's writing. It used to be that you had to find his stories in British editions, which, pre-Internet, were rare in the US. I've read most of these stories before, in different collections, but having them all in one book is a real treasure.

Ballard is more like Borges or Cortazar, or Kafka, than he is like Bradbury or Heinlein. If you are expecting "Sci-Fi" stories, you might be disappointed, even though a lot of the stories involve the future and astronauts.

It might not be good for your mental health to read all of these stories in one run. I'm about 600 pages into this collection, and the accumulating weight of Ballard's obsessions is starting to make me want to take a break. It's an understatement to say that Ballard had a traumatic childhood, and I don't think it's armchair psychology to say that his writing is on one level a way of dealing with trauma. How else can you explain the endless repetition of specific images and situations? Let's see - coral reefs, abandoned swimming pools, sand, plane crashes and crashed airplanes, concrete, empty cities, astronauts, time. If anyone want to add to the list, please do - I know I'm missing a few.

Time, specifically, is an obsession. Ballard seems to see the space age as a confrontation between humanity and the mystery of time. "If the sea was a symbol of the unconscious, was space perhaps an image of unfettered time, and the inability to penetrate it a tragic exile to one of the limbos of eternity, a symbolic death in life?" I'd say that about a third of the stories in this collection deal with this kind of question. Like Kafka, Ballard used his stories to examine philosophical questions from all angles.

In Ballard's world, other people are usually a source of betrayal and cruelty. One's own self is also untrustworthy, and possibly an illusion altogether. Exerting free will is possible, but the individual always ends up being crushed by inhuman forces - society, or time, or the universe. Marriages are almost always cold and suffocating. Women are either temptresses or soulless housewives. It's not a view of life that I share, and, like I said before, it's a view that begins to oppress after long exposure. There are no "characters" in these stories that you will remember - just stock humans, placed in Ballard's inventions to explore a particular question about human nature or reality.

Some of Ballard's stories have the power of Orwell's "1984" - they predict a future that has already arrived, and they point to dangers that are very real. Other stories, like "The Garden of Time" and "The Watch-Towers", are like fairy tales, with images that will haunt you.

One thing is for sure - no one else ever wrote like this. Read Ballard for a visit to a brilliant mind, one that looked with a clear eye on horror and beauty alike.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Ballard Retrospective April 10 2011
By QuickReader - Published on Amazon.com
This massive book is a steal for its price. I've now read all 1196 pages. Tons of clever sci fi merging with paranoid urban horror. Ballard uses many recurring themes in many of these stories. There are lots of solitary people that occupy empty hotels. Often surrounded by sand dunes that evoke memories of the space race and the surface of the moon. He puts his characters in the loneliest environments possible but his characters often seem very at ease with their situations and are there by choice. Ballard creates wide open spaces that still feel claustrophobic because they are so desolate. But it never feels hopeless or depressing. He also includes a lot of futuristic art in his stories, especially in his Vermillion Sands stories. Very clever ideas about living houses and growing sculptures and sound experiments. There are tons of great ideas in these stories.

This is a great bedroom night stand book. Most of the almost 100 stories are in the 10-20 page range and can be read in one sitting. The stories are short and to the point with great ideas that don't suffer from the author trying to fill a novel. The quality over the span of the stories is a lot better than most other authors could produce. There were only a handful of stories in the collection that kind of bored me. A few of the stories will be some of my all time favorite short stories. I'm going to leave this book by my bed and put away my copy of Kafka's complete stories.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, but not actually complete July 14 2010
By Megarat - Published on Amazon.com
This is a terrific collection of J.G. Ballard stories, and other reviews have covered my thoughts about his writing pretty well. I am posting this essentially as a notice that, in spite of the title of this collection, it is not "complete". Among the missing are (at least that I have noticed) "Plan for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy" and "The Atrocity Exhibition" (I'm not sure how this last one went missing, considering an entire separate collection was named after it).

So it's a great collection, but I'm docking one star in my review for what I consider to be misleading title/description.
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