Drought

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drought.jpg

J.G. Ballard

GENRES:
Sci-Fi, Dystopian

SUMMARY:
First published in a shortened version as The Burning World, Drought takes place in the undefined near future where industrial waste has created a thin but deadly film over the world's oceans, completely halting the water cycle over most of the land. Rain has stopped falling, and humans have started to flock towards the coast in the hopes that the developing stills there will provide them with enough freshwater to survive.

Drought follows the life of Dr. Charles Ransom during the global water shortage. The first part of the book focuses on Ransom's daily life as he watches his hometown dry up. The second part sees Ransom journey to the coast to start a new life, and the final part of the book comes full circle and takes him back to his old town. Along the way, Ransom forms ties with a motley group of characters, including the idiot genius Quilter, the river boy Phillip, the flamboyant Lomax, and his witch-like sister Miranda.

RESPONSE:
This book is rife with great imagery, and Ballard has written some great descriptive passages which uncannily apply to current drought-stricken regions. The premise is perhaps a bit simplistic for hard sci-fi fans, with a nano-layer of molecules preventing the ocean from evaporating, but at least it abides by the foundations of the water cycle. More important is the theme that a single change to a part of our environment can have drastic global repercussions, something echoed in today's growing concerns about climate change.

Despite the great imagery and interesting premise, I just couldn't seem to give a monkey's left tit about these characters! I had this same problem with the other Ballard novel I read, Crash. Both novels are populated with a colourful cast of misfits, but other than their initial introduction and description, nothing is really known about them or their motives for their odd actions. In Drought, Ransom is the central character, and although everything happens from his perspective, the reader is never given much indication of his thoughts or feelings. Ballard writes about the defined and concrete and rarely delves into the abstract. This means the reader never gets any in-depth description about the thoughts and feelings of his characters. I guess this is just the author's style, but it makes it difficult for me to care about the characters and therefore the story itself.

POINT BLANK:
Great descriptive prose, a solid dystopian plot, but filled with colourful characters that you'll probably care nothing about.