Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Review: Hello America by JG Ballard

Hello America by JG Ballard
Many editions 224 pages

Hello America is the 1981 novel by British science fiction author JG Ballard, most known as the author of Crash the novel that became the David Cronenberg film. Ballard who also wrote an autobiographical novel empire of the sun which became a Spielberg movie has always gotten a pass out of the genre ghetto into literary circles. The reason is simple he is a smart author who writes biting political satire. That is not to say he deserves this reputation anymore than Norman Spinrad, Ursala K. Leguin or John Brunner.

Hello America is his 9th novel and not his first novel about ecological collapse. In this novel the jet stream is fucked up but the damn Ruskies damning up the Bering straight. It turns America east of the Rockies in to a desert. Left alone for a hundred years the story follows real aptriated Americans making a first expedition back to cross the abandoned America. The misery of this trip reminded me of an earlier Ballard novel the Drought.

Once they cross the wasteland they find a new ecosystem on the far side of the rockies, Las Vegas is the capital in the middle of the jungle. Charles Mason has become the president although he must be 150 years old at the time. That is where the novel makes a huge left turn going from dark adventure yarn set in the wasteland to super weird satire based on out-date early American political issues.

Me personally I liked the first half more, then the second. It was such a tone shift, it just didn’t work for me as much as other Ballard works. That being said it is worth a read if you like post apoc fiction, out of date sci-fi or political satire. It is all those things after all.

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