Lured to a Euro-corporate paradise a stone’s throw from Cannes, the husband of the facility’s new pediatrician, struck by mysterious doings, gradually discovers that (gasp!) he’s in a J.G. Ballard novel.
The warning signs couldn’t have been clearer. Dr. David Greenwood, previous physician to the offspring of Eden-Olympia, retired suddenly through suicide—in the same luxurious digs where his successor Dr. Jane Sinclair has been installed—after shooting seven of his eminent colleagues at the industrial/residential park and then executing three more proletarian hostages. Only he didn’t execute the hostages, realizes Paul Sinclair, the airplane pilot grounded by an impatient flying error and the pulling of his license; they were killed far from the spot where their bodies were found. And he didn’t kill himself either, as Paul confirms when an Eden-Olympia functionary confesses to shooting him under orders from his beleaguered bosses. Just what did David Greenwood do on the day of May 28th, and if he didn’t go on a homicidal rampage, why did he have to die? The answers, Paul realizes when he supplements his mordant observations about the Eden-Olympia lifestyle with the conversations he’s had with everyone from the complex’s shadowy guards to Greenwood’s ex-lover Frances Baring, involve decadent consumerism, corporate megalomania, apocalyptic violence, technologically enhanced capitalism, and all the opiates the pharmacy and the bedroom can provide—in short, all the butts Ballard’s been bashing for years (Cocaine Nights, 1998, etc.). If Super-Cannes had been published as a first novel, its dystopian nightmare would have been heady stuff; as it is, its darkest revelations will be so familiar to the target audience that seasoned readers will feel less rising suspense at Paul’s fevered investigations than impatience with his slowness to figure out what they’ve assumed from the beginning.
The sleek mystery plot makes this the most accessible, if not exactly the most successful, of Ballard’s fictional diatribes against the psychopathology of postmodern capitalist culture.