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Book Title: Vermilion Sands|
The author of the book: J.G. Ballard
Date of issue: January 1st 1973
ISBN 13: 9780224008945
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 3.36 MB
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Reader ratings: 7.2
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Vermilion Sands: A desert resort for artists and wealthy eccentrics
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature
J.G. Ballard is best known for his autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun (1984), along with his early novels like The Drowned World (1962), The Crystal World (1964), The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974), and High-Rise (1975). But many consider his best work to be his huge catalog of short stories, many of which were pivotal in the New Wave SF movement in the late 60s/early 70s. Ballard’s style may have been suited to the short form, as it plays to his strengths (hallucinatory imagery, bizarre concepts, powerful descriptions) and avoid his weaknesses (lack of empathetic characters, weak plots, unrealistic motivations).
He has published many short story collections, but the publishing gods have seen fit to be kind and provide readers with a single volume, The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard, which contains 98 stories (1,200 pages) from throughout his career. Not only is this available in hard copy and Kindle, it is also available for a single credit on Audible, providing 65 hours of thoughtful listening pleasure, read by 5-6 excellent veteran narrators. However, to provide a balanced overview, I will review some of his most famous collections separately.
Vermilion Sands (1971) was first published as a U.S. paperback by Berkley in 1971, and was then published by Cape in the U.K. as a hardback in 1973. It contained the following stories:
"Prima Belladonna" (1956), "The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista " (1962), "Cry Hope, Cry Fury!" (1966), "Venus Smiles" (1957), "Studio 5, The Stars" (1961), "The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D" (1967), "Say Goodbye to the Wind" (1970), "The Screen Game" (1962), "The Singing Statues" (1962)
Sometimes you encounter a book that is intelligent, brilliantly-written, wryly-humorous, hypnotic, and almost completely resistant to description without reducing it to triviality. All the stories here showcase artists of different mediums, faded film stars now dwelling in obscurity, and wealthy eccentrics, all of whom retreat from the larger world into the faded desert community of Vermilion Sands in the America Southwest. The blurb on some of the editions describes it best:
Vermilion Sands is a fully automated desert-resort designed to fulfill the most exotic whims of the idle rich, but now languishes in uneasy decay, populated only by forgotten movie queens, solitary impresarios and the remittance men of the artistic and literary world. It is a lair for beachcombers, hangers-on and malignant obsessions – a place where sensitive pigments paint portraits of their mistresses in a grotesque parody of art; where prima donna plants are programmed to sing operatic arias; where dial-a-poem computers have replaced poets; where psychosensitive houses are driven to murder by their owners’ neuroses; and where love and lust, in the hands of jewel-eyed Jezebels, pall before the stronger pull of evil.
The themes in the stories are wide-ranging, and feature the most bizarre artistic forms, including delicate operatic singing orchids (“Prima Belladonna”), psychotropic houses that retain the emotions of their owners (“The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista”), paintings that paint themselves (“Cry Hope, Cry Fury!”), a growing metallic sculpture that produces music that drives people to distraction (“Venus Smiles”), automated poetry machines that cause a crisis when they are all vandalized and a publishing deadline looms (“Studio 5, The Stars”), a former pilot who finds a new life as a cloud-sculptor ("The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D"), living fashion that reflects and enhances the emotions of the wearer ("Say Goodbye to the Wind"), a doomed film production where the actors and crew cannot be bothered to film ("The Screen Game"), and a sonic sculpture commissioned by a reclusive film star (“The Sound Sculptures”).
The collection is internally consistent in tone, with a wonderfully languid and ironic view of the strange and sometimes comical lives of the residents of Vermilion Sands. It might be more accurate to call it artistic fantasy than SF, but labels really don’t do it justice. Instead, I suggest you should read it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
Overall, Vermilion Sands contains J.G. Ballard’s most virtuoso and light-hearted writing. Unlike much of his darker, melancholy works about lonely astronauts, despondent scientists, and troubled adventurers, there is a sense of playfulness and moments of outright humor. It is also the most unique depiction of fantastical future art forms I have ever encountered, and combined with the decadent and desolate desert backdrop of this strange community with its sand yachts and living houses, it promises to be an unforgettable reading experience.
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Read information about the authorJames Graham "J. G." Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Ballard came to be associated with the New Wave of science fiction early in his career with apocalyptic (or post-apocalyptic) novels such as The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964), and The Crystal World (1966). In the late 1960s and early 1970s Ballard focused on an eclectic variety of short stories (or "condensed novels") such as The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), which drew closer comparison with the work of postmodernist writers such as William S. Burroughs. In 1973 the highly controversial novel Crash was published, a story about symphorophilia and car crash fetishism; the protagonist becomes sexually aroused by staging and participating in real car crashes. The story was later adapted into a film of the same name by David Cronenberg.
While many of Ballard's stories are thematically and narratively unusual, he is perhaps best known for his relatively conventional war novel, Empire of the Sun (1984), a semi-autobiographical account of a young boy's experiences in Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War as it came to be occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army. Described as "The best British novel about the Second World War" by The Guardian, the story was adapted into a 1987 film by Steven Spielberg.
The literary distinctiveness of Ballard's work has given rise to the adjective "Ballardian", defined by the Collins English Dictionary as "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard's novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments." The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry describes Ballard's work as being occupied with "eros, thanatos, mass media and emergent technologies".
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