'Classic Ballard. Mesmerising. No one writes with such haunting impact' William Boyd In parched, war-torn central Africa, Dr Mallory watches his clinic fail and dreams of discovering a third Nile to make the Sahara bloom. During his search for water, an ancient tree stump is uprooted by a bulldozer and water wells up, spreading until it becomes an ...
'Classic Ballard. Mesmerising. No one writes with such haunting impact' William Boyd In parched, war-torn central Africa, Dr Mallory watches his clinic fail and dreams of discovering a third Nile to make the Sahara bloom. During his search for water, an ancient tree stump is uprooted by a bulldozer and water wells up, spreading until it becomes an enormous river. With the once arid land now abounding in birds and beasts, the obsessed Mallory forges up-river in an old car ferry, clashing with hostile factions as he tries to find the source of his own creation. This edition is part of a new commemorative series of Ballard's works, featuring introductions from a number of his admirers (including Ali Smith, Iain Sinclair, Martin Amis and Ned Beauman) and brand-new cover designs from the artist Stanley Donwood.
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Publishers Weekly, 1988-02-19 Part spellbinding story, part fable for our time, Ballard's new novel is a vividly cinematic but nightmarish vision of a corrupted world. Dr. Mallory has come to a backward, drought-plagued and poverty ridden African country to run a WHO clinic, but constant warfare between a ragged band of guerrillas and the local chief of police has caused the tribal residents to flee. By accident, Mallory uncovers a mysterious stream that soon becomes a swiftly flowing river, and he dreams of creating a green Sahara and ``saving'' the Third World. Naming the river after himself and obsessively identifying with it, he immediately finds himself in conflict with Dr. Sanger, a charlatan maker of TV documentaries, who believes that his ``flattering revision of nature was an act of creation as significant as the original invention of the river.'' Mallory undergoes a sinister change of heart, acknowledging a self-destructive impulse whose origins in his past are only dimly described. Suddenly deciding he must destroy the river, he travels toward its source on a derelict ferry with a former guerrilla, a 12-year-old girl he names Noon, and who progresses in a matter of weeks from Stone Age primitivism to a fascination with technology. Mallory encounters terrifying dangers at every stage of his quest. The area surrounding the river, which at first seemed Edenic, becomes poisoned by the water's now miasmic influence, the people along its banks falling deathly ill with fever and starvation. Mallory himself slides into full-fledged dementia and delirium as he battles the guerrillas, the militia and the forces of nature. In a narrative filled with ironies, Ballard's prose is honed and supple, often flowering into vivid lyricism. His characters are larger than life, each carrying the destructive impulses that decimate civilization. Some readers may resist the unrelievedly dark, ominous atmosphere, a profoundly depressing nightmare that goes on a little too long, and find that Mallory is too much an opaque, unsympathetic character, almost a device. Ballard's scorn for technological ``marvels'' (the makers of TV documentaries are ``the conmen and the carpetbaggers of the late 20th century'') sometimes overpowers his storytelling skills, and the roots of Mallory's suicidal obsession are never made clear. Yet this is a mesmerizing tale by a master of the craft, one that resonates with dark implications for the future of humanity on this planet. (April) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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