Memories of the Space Age Summary
by J. G. Ballard

Start Your Free Trial

Download Memories of the Space Age Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Memories of the Space Age Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Memories of the Space Age” is presented through the consciousness of Dr. Edward Mallory. Most of the story is narrated in the third person, although a few passages, ostensibly taped by Mallory, present events in the first person and illustrate his increasingly troubled mental state.

Once employees of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Mallory and his wife, Anne, have returned to a deserted Cape Canaveral for the most ambiguous of reasons. Both Florida and the space program have been abandoned, casualties of a spreading “space sickness” brought on by a “psychic fissure” in time and space apparently resulting from space flight itself. Both Mallory and his wife are suffering from the sickness, which seems ultimately to leave its victims in a timeless trance. As a result, their journey from Vancouver, British Columbia, took them two months and their drive down the Florida coast several more weeks. However, while Anne, the sicker of the two, wants to flee, Mallory insists on remaining. Behind their ambivalent behavior looms the mysterious figure of Hinton, a one-time astronaut responsible for the first murder in space.

Mallory and Anne are staying in a deserted hotel near Cape Canaveral, and it is from there that Mallory watches a pilot flying antique aircraft over the empty space center day after day. Mallory comes to suspect that the pilot is Hinton, who has recently escaped from prison. Subsequent events seem to confirm his suspicions, for when he ventures out in a police car to scavenge food from an abandoned supermarket, he is first buzzed by a glider and then strafed by a triplane.

Suffering a return of the space sickness, Mallory wanders through an abandoned theme park into a small zoo containing a tiger and other animals. This is the home of Gale Shepley, who identifies herself as the pilot of the glider. She is also the daughter of Alan Shepley, the astronaut Hinton murdered. It was Mallory who had teamed Shepley with the unbalanced Hinton on the fateful flight; therefore, he bears some of the responsibility for the crime. Now Gale is waiting in Florida, hoping that the decaying orbit of the capsule bearing her dead father will cause it to crash nearby. She has even forged a peculiar pact with Hinton, who she now believes may not have killed her...

(The entire section is 599 words.)