Ballard’s short stories were instrumental in the success of science fiction’s New Wave movement. Many of the developments associated with it, such as a move toward inner space, a more critical attitude toward technology, and the redefinition of some of the conventions of science fiction (for example, time travel), are essential ingredients of Ballard’s stories.
“Manhole 69” shows readers what an imaginative writer can do within the genre of science fiction. The story of three men whom a medical experiment has left with the inability to sleep turns to the unexpected when all three, rather than enjoy prolonged hours of productivity, withdraw into a form of autism.
The literary quality of such stories as “The Drowned Giant,” which tells of the gradual dismemberment of the washed-up corpse of a gigantic man, also exemplifies how well New Wave science fiction brings literary respectability to a literature formerly dismissed by most critics. The stylistic experimentation visible in tales such as “The Terminal Beach” makes these pieces unique.
Although Ballard’s stories have been compared with the works of mainstream American authors Donald Bar-thelme and William S. Burroughs, their focus on the inner cosmos echoes significant works of other science-fiction writers. For example, Alfred Bester’s haunting tale of a murderer on the run from telepathic policemen, The Demolished Man (1953), displays an intensity...
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