Day: July 16, 2010

on redemption and horror – redux

If you’ve read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and wished, like I did, that there was more nuance to the terror, something that resembles character development, and an ending that is believably hopeful, then can I recommend you pick up JG Ballard’s The Drought instead.

McCarthy’s vision of a dry and dusty landscape pales in comparison to Ballard’s drought stricken countryside. McCarthy doesn’t respond to any of his readers questions of why any of this is happening (maybe that’s part of his point) and, while Ballard doesn’t answer everything, he at least creates a world you can imagine coming into reality. And it’s terrifying.

Also, it actually feels like he cares about landscape and knows a little bit about science; he’s thought about what desolation would look like and how the new environment he’s created would actually work. It’s not all grey and dusty. There’s beauty in the detail:

Under the empty winter sky the salt-dunes ran on for miles. Seldom varying more than a few feet from trough to crest, they shone damply in the cold air, the pools of brine disturbed by the inshore wind. Sometimes, in a distant foretaste of the spring to come, their crests would be touched with white streaks as a few crystals evaporated out into the sunlight, but by the early afternoon these began to deliquesce, and the grey flanks of the dunes would run with a pale light.

It was written in 1965 and feels creepily prescient as a result.