Tuesday, May 14, 2024

28. Running Wild by J.G. Ballard

This really is a novella, but it is in its own, separate book, so I'm counting it.  It's written from the perspective of an unnamed psychiatrist who though not well-respected because of some of his more outlandish theories and approaches, is called in to investigate a mass murder and kidnapping in a gated upper middle-class estate.  In a matter of hours, every single adult was brutally and efficiently murdered and all the children spirited away.


Though it is presented initially as a mystery, the basic secret is pretty obvious right from the get-go.  I wonder if we have become that much jaded in our media since 1988 when this was written that it is possible at the time that it wouldn't be obvious what happened here.  The lack of mystery is okay,  because this book is really more of one of Ballard's many explorations of an idea.  What's great here is that he is basically foreshadowing the potential horrors of extreme helicopter parenting (tip of the hat to Meezly for pointing that out).  As the investigator explores the estate, we learn how the children there had the perfect lives, with everything taken care of and  their parents being hyper-sensitive and loving but also hyper-vigilant.  All the kids were successful, high-achieving and well-adjusted.  Until they weren't.

I also add that Ballard is just a very good writer, with clear, direct prose that moves along with just enough imagery and figures of speech to enrichen without distracting.  He does descriptions of murder scenes in a very effective way without ever needing to go really into the gore.  At the beginning, I got the feeling he was enjoying simply exploring the horror of this perfect estate on its own without even referencing the murders that had happened.

A fun, instructive and gruesome little read.

No comments: