The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In The Unlimited Dream Company, J. G. Ballard tells how Blake, a twenty-five-year-old misfit whose first name is never given, suddenly acquires the strange extrasensory powers to transform the tranquil English suburb of Shepperton and release all of its inhabitants into the sun. Although the exact source of Blake’s expanding psychic capacities is never given, his transformation into a man whose powers defy the laws of gravity and biology is strongly connected to his near-death experience while trapped in the sinking airplane he stole and accidentally crashed into the Thames.

Reviving on a riverside lawn after his narrow escape from drowning, Blake is met by a group of townspeople who soon become important in his life: Father Wingate, the town’s priest; Stark, an amateur glider pilot and the owner of a small, decrepit zoo and amusement pier; and Dr. Miriam St. Cloud and her mother, who take in Blake after his attempts to leave Shepperton on foot and by boat fail mysteriously.

What creates the aura of otherworldliness, an inexplicable strangeness that has befallen the mundane world of Shepperton throughout the novel, is Ballard’s exquisite juxtaposition of the realistic (Dr. St. Cloud’s medical explanation of cerebral oxygen deprivation for the strange light that Blake has seen in the aftermath of his near death) and the extranatural (Blake’s new, accident-induced psychic powers). During his first night at the St. Clouds’,...

(The entire section is 559 words.)