…SF addict …

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Empire of the Sun by J G . Ballard (1984)

This is a story of survival during World War 2 through the eyes of a young boy. Young Jim is living in China during the outbreak of the war with Japan and he becomes seperated from his parents. Aged 11 he makes his way to and from Shanghai, encountering Japanese pilots and American airmen.Eventually he is interred in a prison camp where life becomes really hard and he encounters death, both of his allies and the Japanese.  Young Jim is confused, not sure what the war is all about and who the enemy is. Time passes, friends die or move away and Jim becomes dissilusioned by the varying reports on the war in the copies of Time and Reader's Digest that he treasures.  Jim moves from camp to camp surviving on meagre offerings of sweet potato and rice, constantly asking those around him if the war is over, and if a new one will start. He identifies with the Japanese soldiers,  there is something about him that he admires which stays with him even after seeing their rough treatment of his inmates.

I had seen the film years ago and really enjoyed it, and although I've had the book on my shelf for years, it's only now that I got round to reading it.
The boy in the story is a representation of Ballard himself-it is almost an autobiography while reading like a great war story.
Reading this book it was easy for me to see how these experiences as a young boy would inform the author's later dystopian novels that would make him famous.  The dank and dreary paddy fields of war torn China are somewhat similar to the rampant boggy jungles of England in his  'The Drowned World' from the 60s.
In both stories groups of people are struggling to survive in a changed world.
Good one!