Ballard (1930–2009) creates a world reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange and V for Vendetta in this novel of suburban fascism.
At the heart of the narrative is the Brooklands Metro-Centre Mall, a monstrosity that feeds excess and consumerism. In a recent incident, not atypical of the violence that pervades this vision of modern British life, a man has been shot and killed at the mall. Held for his murder is Duncan Christie, a mental patient who was on day release when the incident occurred. This seems to be a cut-and-dried case, even to Richard Pearson, narrator and son of the victim, but a few anomalies crop up. For example, three witnesses emerge who claim that Christie was at one of the entrances to the mall at the time of the shooting…and these witnesses just happen to be Christie’s physician, his psychiatrist and one of his former teachers. Pearson is not wrong in assuming this to be overly coincidental. In addition to the loss of his father, Pearson has other problems, for he has recently lost his job, pushed out of his position in an ad agency by his own wife. Pearson watches with some amazement the rise of quasi-fascist elements in this quasi-suburban setting that’s starting to create its own reality, for “leafy Surrey” is no longer a suburb of London but rather a suburb of Heathrow. Troops dressed in St. George’s shirts march in the streets, encouraging hooliganism and attacks against immigrant businesses; riots break out in sports arenas; and Pearson finds out his father might have had sympathies with the brown-shirted St. George’s movement.
Ballard writes brilliantly about the nightmarish underside of modern life, and this novel makes us poignantly aware of the loss of his voice.