Context: Started reading this on the gorgeous Thorntons Beach just south of Cape Tribulation, Queensland, Australia. Seems like a million years ago now!
This was quite a strange chilling one. Ballard has seized the fever that gripped (some of) us back in the 1990s as the millennium approached, asked himself some questions about where society was heading at the time and then produced this novel. In it, he constructs an artificial community which the great corporations of the day have founded as an ideal working environment. The trouble is, it’s too ideal.
As the staff work longer and longer hours, eschewing all sense of sociability, they gradually lose their minds. There is a remedy but it’s more horrific than our protagonist can grasp. For the most part, this reads more like a detective thriller as Paul tries to dig deeper into the mystery of why Dr David Greenwood, a fellow Brit, had murdered a number of colleagues in a shooting frenzy one day shortly before Paul arrives on the scene.
The novel’s strength lies in the way the author develops the surreal facade of perfection that is the community of Eden-Olympia. You know it’s not right even though the descriptions are of paradise. There’s something very clever about this writing and I think it must be in the way he describes the people. It just goes to show his skill in creating flawed characters against a flawless backdrop. And it works to create a jarring juxtaposition right through the novel. In fact, as the people become more flawed the close you get to them, the worse this becomes until the whole thing shatters.
I enjoyed it but it wasn’t as good a read as I expected. It asks questions of us as a society but, really also asks questions of us as individuals? What drives us and what keeps us sane? What do we need to keep a balance in our lives? To what extent can you artificially create a lifestyle without causing some monstrous cancer to develop inside the soul? Good questions.
With a bit of thought, this will ruin the plot for you so, if you want to know, click show