Friday, November 18, 2011

The Unlimited Dream Company by JG Ballard

Unlimited Dream CompanyUnlimited Dream Company by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I find it difficult to know how to talk about this book. I loved the vibrant writing and surreal story, but could not recommend this to 95% of the readers I know.

Why? Well, you see... Blake is a bit of a loser. He steals a plane and crashes it into the Thames at Shepperton, and that's when everything goes a bit strange. He develops strong desires for everyone and everything in the town (see 95% comment earlier). Just like in dreams, relationships have no consequences, people can fly and commune with the sea and forest creatures. Blake becomes like a pagan dream god - even spreading his semen around grows a tropical rainforest.

And yes, I said the word semen. Trust me, if you can't take it the two times in this review, this is not the book for you.

But maybe you are a reader who can push aside all of your senses of moral violation to enjoy the writing, the description, the dreamy world of this book. If you can, you should. I couldn't put it down. The aerial wedding scene is particularly memorable.

"When they had gone, I walked alone through the late afternoon, my damp suit covered with a coat of rainbows, a confetti of petals, celebrating my marriage with the meadow."

Other authors this reminds me of: Michel Houellebecq is the first one to come to mind.  A little squeeze of the little Thomas Pynchon I've read.  Maybe a little bit of the visceral imagery of Catherynne Valente - that squirmy edge between disturbing and beautiful.

Other things in general: The Birds, the story by Daphne du Maurier and made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock.  There are multiple scenes in this filled by birds, and even if Ballard hasn't written it to be foreboding, I kept picturing that setting intertwined.  And in this one scene where the birds are dropping from the sky or popping out of his body - wow.

It also reminds me of the movie Pleasantville, only to an extreme. 


  1. Jenny... didn't you notice the oddest thing about the story -- is our protagonist, Blake, alive or dead? Or both?

  2. This sounds very odd. I'm not a big Ballard fan, I've read The Drowned World and thought it was only OK. Have you tried Empire of the Sun?

  3. @Rick - He seems to think both, sometimes simultaneously! What a strange world....

    @Sam - This was my first Ballard, and I want to read more for sure. The Complete Short Stories are appealing, and The Drowned World has long been on my to-read list.


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