rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was not expecting a detective mystery, what with the titular title and Ballard's notoriety for depicting transgression. I read Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition back in college during my Burroughs phase and found them both a little dry for my tastes. I thought the same of this book and almost put it down, but I read the first chapter of his excellent 1962 sci-fi novel The Drowned World and found shocking similarities in this book written thirty years later. Both deal with persistence of human mundanity despite exaggerated locales: the older book deals with a flooded world where survivors live in the top floors of hotels above the water line whereas this depicts the idle rich spiraling into base impulses while on permanent vacation in Spanish resort communities.
In each, the environment adapts it's inhabitants only to be viewed by a curious observer. Ballard is saying man makes the environment/social order and that in turn makes the man, creating feedback loop that consumes everything. This book was not exactly a page turner, but I was compelled to see if the protagonist transcends the soup in which he swims or if he gets sucked under. How any of us survive the world we live in the real mystery.
View all my reviews.