Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Review: Eco-horror classic JG Ballard's The Drought
The Drought by JG Ballard
(out of print)
Ballard like a lot of amazing writer's is better know for the films based on his excellent work. Despite several decades of during excellent thought provoking science Fiction novels that managed to crawl out of the genre ghetto to be praised as literature. His most well know work is a semi-autobiographical novel Empire of the sun made into a film by Steven Spielberg, his most famous Science Fiction novel Crash was made into a film by David Cronenberg.
The drought is a fantastic work of both horror and Science Fiction, a gut wrenching and brutal look at one small corner of the world dealing with a ten year drought that nearly ends our species. As a work of speculative eco-horror it ranks with classics in the growing sub-genre. What is most stunning is when it was written, in the middle 60's just few years before fellow British Science Fiction writer John Brunner wrote his eco-horror classic “The Sheep Look Up.”
In the last few years Brunner's novel about chemical pollution and Government manipulations by corporations has been heralded as Prophetic, but Ballard's work is no less telling of a future we are just now seeing come into focus. Just this last week I heard Worldwatch founder Lester Brown on NPR's Fresh Air talking about a coming global food crisis. Population growth, a shift to a western diet, and climate change are creating a world where we have to worry about wars over water, not oil.
But even more directly Ballard's novel suggests the drought is caused by chemicals creating a lifeless dead zone off the shore that prevents evaporation and rainfall. He wrote this in the sixties and now we have an island of plastic forming in the pacific ocean the size of Texas. IS it the same thing? No but it is scary none the less.
The novel follows the character of a Doctor, as he tries to stay at home as the world drys out. While some of the depths to which the characters go to survive might seen tame compared to recent post apocayltic fare, it is pretty hardcore for it's era. The story is well paced, and moves quickly through it's short page count. It should be in print, considering the issues we face in the coming century it is a story that needs to be heard. This kinda of warning is what speculative fiction does best.
It also makes you wonder how recent Eco-horror classics like John Shirley's Demons, and Skip and Spector's The bridge will be judged further down the line.