A flooded, tropical setting for London in the future was an interesting idea that tempted me to read this novel. But I found the prose style very pedestrian and dull. In the novel the author takes an intriguing science fiction concept and then clutters it up with all kinds of side issues and confusing events that also seem to have technical “holes” in bits of the science.
I found the novel muddled and unclear in its explanations. The account often lacks clarity and doesn't make sense. If, as we are told, the melting ice caps cause sea levels to increase by just a few feet how can London be under thirty feet of water? Kerans, the main character and his two friends choose to live in an area occupied by mutating forms of sea animals, where they have to get around by boat, and are constantly threatened by these monsters. It is never made clear why they choose to stay there.
There are some quite unbelievable incidents that I found amusing rather than threatening, like the villain with his collection of trained (?) crocodiles. Another thing was the draining of an enormous “lagoon” that emptied within hours when a simple calculation tells you it would take days, if not weeks, to do that. And the mechanism of a damn or barrier holding back the tremendous pressure of millions of gallons of water, using seaweed defies credibility.
J G Ballard introduces the idea of long-dormant genetic memories in the characters producing a kind of hallucinatory effect, so that the physicality of their surroundings becomes blurred and indistinct. This is inferred to be something resulting from changes in Time due to the return to pre-historic phases in Earth’s climatic conditions. The author missed a trick there as an explanation of this would have been very interesting to his readers.
Unusually, in a book from an author of such standing, I found a school boy’s typical lexical error in the use (more than once) of the word “affect” when it was obvious the intention was to use the word effect. Comforting in a way I suppose to modern indie-publishers! In general I found the science wanting and the plot thin and disappointing. I found the characters, particularly Strangman and Beatrice, poorly developed and weak. It was my first introduction to J G Ballard’s work and I was not encouraged to try another of his novels, though because of his reputation I expect I will try another - but not too soon.
Rating: 3 stars (WoW Blog)