Wednesday, October 23, 2019

80. Terminal Beach by J.G. Ballard

I bought this at the Salvation Army in the NDG neighbourhood of Montreal, a stop of a fairly demoralizing book hunt out there.  Pickings were slim.  Still, a J.G. Ballard collection of short stories from the early 60s for less than a buck and a few other decent finds left me feeling not totally unsatisfied.  It's odd, though, you would think that the anglo neighbourhoods of Montreal, which tend to be pretty old demographically, would have lots of nice book finds.  It hasn't really been the case so far.

I also discovered as I started reading the second story that I had already read it.  This prompted me to go back to my old posts where I discovered that three of the stories here were also in The Disaster Area.  (The Subliminal man one of my favourites about a nightmare consumerist world, Now Wakes the Sea evocative story of a man convinced the ocean is washing up on his neighbourhood each and Minus One a very funny story about an asylum for the wealthy who lose a patient until they convince themselves he never existed)  No matter, as I had quite enjoyed that and it was back in 2012 so I was certainly read to be washed over anew in Ballardian sense of isolation and deserted post-industrial landscapes.

I also suspect I had already read The Last World of Mr. Goddard, about a department store clerk who goes home to open a miniature of his world in a safe in a closet.  This was quite neat, reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode.  The Time Tombs, about men searching memory tapes in ancient tombs had a cool setting.  The Venus Hunters is a story about an astronomer who meets a man who is convinced that he met Venusians and slowly gets drawn into his illusion, which it actually isn't.  Both these last two were intriguing but ultimately didn't really go anywhere conclusive.  Finally, there was a small story The Sudden Afternoon about a man who has his body invaded by somebody else transferring his personality into him, an Indian doctor on the run for killing his wife (who had cancer whom he also transferred).  That one was neat.  The last and titular story, Terminal Beach is a classic Ballardian tale.  A man is wandering around in some massive nuclear bomb test site, filled with rows of bunkers and piles of mannequins.  The geometry of the bunkers become the schedule of his life as he tries to uncover some unnamed mystery while also catching glimpses of his wife and child who died in a car accident.  The imagery in this one was stunning.

Ballard is a trip.  You have to take him in small doses and as I said in my review of The Disaster Area in some ways his short stories are an ideal way to do this.  Quite enjoyable to revisit the ones I had already read and to allow myself to be absorbed the new ones.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

And, as ISFDB informs us:
Note: This collection is a US collection, while The Terminal Beach was a UK collection. Note that the two collections only have 2 stories in common.