- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial - GB (13 November 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780007287048
- ISBN-13: 978-0007287048
- ASIN: 0007287046
- Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 0.9 x 13 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 141 g
- Customer Reviews: 54 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Concrete Island Paperback – 13 Nov 2008
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'Ballard writes with taut and precise economy, and the moral of his brilliantly original fable is plain: the interstices of our concrete jungle are filled with neglected people, and one day those people could be ourselves' Sunday Times
‘Perfectly enjoyable within the horror comic tradition … exceptionally skilful’ Auberon Waugh, Evening Standard
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Review this product
Top international reviews
Ballard creates a modern Crusoe-dystopia which is remarkable for its remorseless attention to physical detail and the gradual mental deterioration of Maitland, the crashed man. In our jaded 21st century, the metaphorical aspects are too worn, but the image of Maitland dragging his damaged leg through the cutting undergrowth of nettles, metal and tall grasses, searching for a way out, stays with me.
‘Friday’ is split into an autistic tramp and a traumatised young woman - but the main innovation comes as Maitland-Crusoe discovers the ruthless underside of his supposedly ‘enlightened’ self.
I thought the first bit of this book was a terrific re-setting of the desert-island genre into a modern, urban world of auto-madness. I wasn’t so keen on the second half, mainly because I struggled with the motivations and psychology of the other characters on the island. When everyone (including the protagonist by now) is disturbed or mad or sways constantly from one emotion to another, all the inconsistency makes it hard to care about them. I’ve felt this about Ballard before: his landscapes are much more exciting than his people…?
Extremely cleverly written, with short punchy chapters.
It might just have been this version of the eBook, but there are quite a few transpositional errors (perhaps due to OCR software?).
A few gripes: there’s a regular mangling of English and American English (e.g. car bonnet/hood), and a seeming obsession by the author for airport buses....
He meets his 'Friday's in the form of two outcasts surviving in a shelter on the island, 'their last hiding place, appropriately in the centre of this alienating city.'
Like the main character in Kobo Abe's 'The Woman in the Dunes', the architect tries to escape. But, when eventually he is free, he considers his escape as 'meaningless. Already he felt no real need to leave the island.'
J.G. Ballard has written a forceful portrait of man's solitude in a concrete city, illustrating violently Robert Frost's profoundly human sentence 'Every Man is an island'.
Not to be missed.
This is part of the trilogy consisting of High Rise and Crash that marked Ballard’s declaration of intent to write serious novels about contemporary themes, however it would not be until the publication of Empire of the Sun that he achieved widespread recognition.
The kindle version comes with short introduction by the author, and one by Neil Gaiman, as well as short biographical essay. There are the usual typos, for example Maitland frequently has an unnecessary hyphen in the middle. However on balance a reasonable effort for kindle.
This is a powerful and well written novel, completely different from what anyone else was writing. Although there are themes it is does not groan under the weight of literary allusions that mar some books. Having said that it can drag and often the physical descriptions seem to make little sense. Long swaying grass that never gets trampled underfoot, etc.
To a certain extent the novel is of its time, but it remains a powerful and inspiring read.