Ballard’s Kingdom Come’ offers coda to a career of dystopian fiction
KINGDOM COME. By J.G. Ballard. Liveright Publishing. 310 pages.$24.95.
Be ready to don protective gear when you pick up “Kingdom Come,” for the late J.G. Ballard took no prisoners.
This posthumously published work by the British avatar of speculative fiction is a searing indictment of another kind of “brave new world,” one obsessed with consumerism. Nothing else matters.
The narrator, Richard Pearson, recently has lost his job as an advertising executive in London when he learns his father has died in a mass shooting at a suburban shopping mall in a nondescript town called Brooklands.
He travels there to investigate the murder, but what he finds is the unexpected: strange, frightening, cultlike gatherings of citizens wearing identical red-and-white shirts, groups consumed by violence and xenophobia.
The cult apparently revolves around the Metro-Centre, a mammoth temple to consumerism, which dominates the whole town.
“It’s just a large shop.” Pearson tells his Asian neighbor, who replies, “It’s more than a shop, Mr. Pearson. It’s an incubator. People see their lives are empty. So they look for a new dream.”
Discovering that the town leaders and authorities are looking the other way despite rising turmoil, more beatings, more shootings, he wonders if his father’s death was not random but targeted. And if so, why? So begins a dangerous game.
In his precise, ironic prose, Ballard offers another of his characteristically brutal, dystopian worlds: “The human race sleepwalked to oblivion, thinking only about the corporate logos on its shroud,” he wrote.
Ballard has been prescient in predicting the dire consequences of our modern, materialistic world for decades. This is his final work.
Reviewer Frances Monaco, a writer based in Charleston