Ninebelow (ninebelow) wrote,
Ninebelow
ninebelow

Ballardian

A while ago I mentioned I was reviewing Lost Boys by James Miller for Strange Horizons. The review is forthcoming but as an advance preview here is one of the paragraphs that got cut:
At this point let's stop for a moment to look at two over-inflated comparisons Little, Brown are trying to draw with their new author: JG Ballard and Rupert Thomson. We can safely dismiss Ballard. Ballard has now reached the point in his career - edgy elder statesman - where the shadow he casts is so long that if you are a young male British writer and your publisher doesn't compare you to him you should probably be worried. Thomson, on the other hand, is one of the most unsung established writers working in Britain. His career has moved from uniquely Anglo-Saxon magical realism to forensic psychological realism encompassing many interesting places on the way. He has misfired just once, with Divided Kingdom, when he attempted a fable and ended up estranged from any meaningful engagement with the world. And so, although presumably not in the way it was intended, we find the link to Miller.
Obviously the person who cut that paragraph was coalescent and he was right because although it worked when I started writing my thoughts down, in the end it unbalanced the review. It is true though and worth saying here.

Anyway, I'm posting it now because coalescent recently took part in an SF Signal mind meld on writers to watch (related poll here.) One of his picks was:
Will Ashon. First novel Clear Water (2005) is Ballardian satire with meatier bass notes; not everything in it works, but the bits that do are forceful and tough and original. Second novel The Heritage (2008) looks to cover similar, if perhaps even grimier, ground.
Niall isn't alone in suggesting the comparison to Ballard. The first sentence of the Guardian review by James Hawes is "Will Ashon's first novel tries to do for the shopping centre Bluewater what JG Ballard's Super-Cannes did for Cannes."

The thing is I don't think Clear Water is Ballardian and I don't think Ballard is a satirist. Amongst the other things he is doing, Ashon does satirise corporate culture, consumer consumption and commodity fetishisation. None of these are Ballard's concerns though. Ashon's character are marked by painful introspection and self-knowledge, the internal states of Ballard's characters are often as hidden from themselves as the interior worlds of others. There is an exuberance to Ashon's prose and plot that is entirely alien to Ballard's clinical style.

So unless I'm missing something this is another case of reaching for the nearest name, rather than the most appropriate one. Ashon's apocalyptic satire is much more redolent of his contemporaries such as Matthew de Abaitua and Toby Litt than the monolithic Ballard. (Then again Litt is pretty Ballardian.)
Tags: books, criticism, james miller, jg ballard, matthew de abaitua, rupert thomson, toby litt, will ashon
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