The Unlimited Dream Company Critical Essays

J. G. Ballard


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

At the core of Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream Company lies a powerfully expressed hope in the (nearly unlimited) powers of the human imagination. Because of his psychic powers, Blake is able to fly and thus realize an age-old dream of humanity expressed first in the ancient Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus’ flight from Crete. Blake also acts as a kind of fertility god, causing exuberant tropical life to spring from suburban British soil.

The novel also allows Blake to enact what is perhaps the ultimate human fantasy, that of the resurrection of the dead. Touching Miriam’s shoulders, Blake wills her to renewed life. This act lies at the root of many age-old myths and narratives, among them Orpheus’ (doomed) attempt to use his music to bring back from the Underworld of Hades his dead lover Eurydice.

By refusing to engage in any doubletalk describing the exact nature of Blake’s powers, Ballard avoids giving an obvious mock scientific explanation. Because Blake’s powers come from himself and are not the result of some magic or wizardry, The Unlimited Dream Company arguably is a work of science fiction rather than one of fantasy. It can be argued that the novel’s vision of a hero who overcomes death places it among the considerable body of science-fiction texts—among them Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Sentinel” (1951), source of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)—that give their...

(The entire section is 447 words.)