Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Kingdom Come

Review: Kingdom Come by J.G. Ballard (British author challenge, TBR challenge)

This is Ballard's last novel; I bought it in 2007 by mail from the U.K., but I'm only getting around to reading it now that it's available in the United States. Ballard certainly has a flair for narrative -- I've been reading it continuously for about two days. It's relatively brief (280 pages), and it takes a few surprising turns along the way. It also predicts the 2011 riots in France and Britain -- riots born of boredom and entitlement rather than political unrest. An ad exec, Richard, recently fired and divorced, must head to his father's flat in the suburbs around Heathrow Airport after the father is killed in a seemingly random shooting at a large mall. What Richard finds is a heady brew of conspiracies and angst among the locals -- lower-middle-class people whose whole lives revolve around the mall and sporting matches end each day with small riots and attacks on Asians and Eastern Europeans. As Richard digs deeper into his father's killing, he begins to feel himself, by want of his profession, into the emerging consumerist culture that leads to horrific, self-focusing violence. Although this is the first Ballard novel I've read, I am aware of his themes of violence (i.e. Crash and Empire of the Sun). His descriptions of the emptiness of suburban consumerist life may be a little glib, and the themes of the novels get hit about as often as the protagonist, but the narrative and prose are propulsive. I think I may tackle his short stories in the large volume that came out in 2011.

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