The Crystal World

  • by J. G. Ballard
  • Narrated by Sean Barrett
  • 5 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From J.G. Ballard, author of Crash and Cocaine Nights comes his extraordinary vision of an African forest that turns all in its path to crystal.
Through a 'leaking' of time, the West African jungle starts to crystallize. Trees are metamorphosed into enormous jewels. Crocodiles encased in second glittering skins lurch down the river. Pythons with huge blind gemstone eyes rear in heraldic poses.
Fearing this transformation as a herald of the apocalypse, most flee the area in terror, afraid to face a catastrophe they cannot understand. But some, dazzled and strangely entranced, remain to drift through this dreamworld forest. Travelling through this gilded land, a doctor tries to resist its strange allure in pursuit of his ex-mistress, while a tribe of lepers search for Paradiseā€¦
In this tour de force of the imagination, Ballard transports the listener into one of his most unforgettable landscapes.

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Customer Reviews

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Couldn't finish

Any additional comments?

I've been reading for years about how great J.G. Ballard is, but I just don't get it. Seems like basically pulp, and pulp in which not much happens. Read The Drowned World, but that wasn't much better.

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- Aa-bomb

Perfect narration for Ballard's descriptive prose

I feel I must announce my bias upfront: I am a fan of both Ballard as a writer, and Barrett as a narrator. Even with that bias, I truly felt that this particular audiobook was a 'perfect marriage' - a five-star narration that enhances a vivid, evocative text. I would definitely recommend this audiobook as an introduction to early Ballard.

A lot of readers - even Ballard fans - don't like this book: some common criticisms are that the characters are unbearable and their motivations ambiguous, the descriptions of landscapes interminable, the symbolism heavy-handed and the ending, in particular, irreconcilable. I would never dare suggest Ballard as 'light-reading', but I nevertheless think that 'The Crystal World' is one of his books that can be read 'simply', as a pure narrative (without interposed analysis). If you are going to approach it in that way, perhaps it is helpful to have in mind Colin Greenland's thesis that it's all about acceptance and acclimatization: seen in this light, the characters' choices may be more relatable.

I do find it interesting that one of the common complaints about 'The Crystal World' is the focus on describing the environment in which the characters find themselves. In this regard, 'The Crystal World' reminds me somewhat of Lem's 'Solaris' - the awesome beauty is almost a distraction from the destructive (and/or transformational) nature of the environment. Jason Heller's take on Ballard as "[u]nimaginable horror meted out in the most disciplined packages" is the one that resonates the most with me. I don't think that there is an extraneous word in 'The Crystal World', and Barrett's subtle narration is the perfect complement.
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- Miriam

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-07-2014
  • Publisher: Audible Studios