Friday, June 12, 2015

Millennium People by J. G. Ballard

Review by The Quidnunc


I HAVE HAD IT! Enough with the topic of middle-class rebellion. The recurring theme has been exhausted a good ten years ago and to be honest there are other authors who have done a far better job in exploiting the issue than Ballard.
Published in 2003, Millennium People, is a wry take on Karl Marx's revolutionary theory, only its author imagines the radical social changes as a kind of "Upholstered Apocalypse."
The novel tells the story of David Markham, a middle-class psychiatrist, who lost his ex-wife in a terrorist attack at Heathrow Airport. An event that triggers his unhealthy craze for finding out the responsible for this meaningless act of violence. His investigation leads him to a group of middle-class intelligentsia settled in Chelsea Marina who seem to be the master minds behind the bomb attacks all over London. They are what can be called an odd assortment of quirky characters who compete each other in embodying the perfect sociopath stereotype.
What annoyed me the most is the stubborn decision of the bourgeois revolutionaries to remain bourgeois even as they take on the system that has both spoiled and exploited them as an evil step mother would. their acts of rebellion resemble the tricks children would do to attract their parents' attention - in short they are pointless and lets face it do not prove their stand.
And although, there are some poetic stylistic exquisite, and some resemblance with the styles of Hammett and Chandler can be established, linguistically the novel is poor. The sentences force you to drag yourself from paragraph to paragraph rather than fly from page to page. While trying to force Millennium People down my throat there were moments when I felt like I was reading extracts from the diary of a very depressed, not very remarkable psychopath, or rather an old grumpy aunt.
I don't see how readers have described the novel as cunning, when its most important idea - the
revolution is so weak that it breaks my heart.  J. G. Ballard made a very brave attempt to cover this downfall of his plot by trying to draw very detailed portraits of his characters but alas - this didn't save him from my sentence.
It seems that in the case of Ballard's fiction you either like his "brand of 
stark social commentary" or you don't.  I definitely didn't for I believe that no author should get away with an unconvincing storyline and Millennium People's 
storyline is absurdly implausible. Furthermore, the reason for his bourgeois characters rebellion is stripped of all reality and can be even deemed non-existent.
I say sorry to all of the fans of Ballard out there, but this circus of Volvo driving, Tuscany holidaying, middle-class 21st century worshipping dystopia didn't intrigue me enough to even finish the whole book.