When Empire of the Sun was published in 1984, it quickly became a critical and commercial success. Many commentators regard it as one of the finest war novels ever written. In the novel, Ballard chronicles the semi-autobiographical experiences of an eleven-year-old British boy named Jim living in China during World War II.
When the fighting comes to Shanghai, Jim is separated from his parents and sent to a prison camp. It is there that he faces the harsh realities of war and learns important lessons about human nature. The novel has been praised for its vivid portrayal of the devastating effects of war and the psychology of survival as seen through the eyes of a young boy. In this moving coming-of-age tale, Jim lets go of his innocent ideas about war and heroism and in the process reveals the meaning of courage, tenacity, and faith in the endurance of the human spirit.