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One of J. G. Ballard’s early novels. This brilliant piece of science fiction creates an eerie, and at some times confusing environment, totally absorbing the reader.

The plot involves a doctor working at a leper colony being lured by a cryptic letter from his former lover to an African mining town. There he finds that the rainforest is beginning to crystallise, creating a new world as it spreads. Inside the crystal world, time becomes distorted and somewhat meaningless with regard to people’s ages, however consciousness continues, and people can move around.

Ballard explores the consequences of this throughout the book. The characters, and the plot aren’t that important. For me, the greatest thing about this book is the writer’s ability to ‘paint’ the crystal world, making you feel as if you are in this magical place, where all the norms of our reality are lost.

As it progresses, the moral questions of the world face Dr Sanders. The crystal world is like a paradise, however humanity is totally changed, maybe indefinitely if one stays there long enough. Those who are assimilated are extremely happy, but not really alive. It is a problem that is never answered in the book, but like so many others, just explored leaving the reader still thinking about it at the end.

I would thoroughly recommend this book as an introduction to J. G. Ballard. It is very short, and is not a brutal as some of his later works such a The Atrocity Exhibition. Those who are interested in science fiction this is one of the best (Philip K. Dick fans will love it). To general readers, it is a mesmerising and easily accessible work of one of the great post-modern authors.

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