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Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Empire of the SunEmpire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 8/2/23

I don't know what it is about this novel that lets me positively want to re-read it. On the surface, it's utterly tragic and devastating. Ballard himself experienced the Japanese war camp in Shanghai for the entire span of WWII. Starvation and desperate moves to survive and the breathtaking beauty of trying to make sense of fascination and obsession, indeed, YA self-discovery, while developing PTSD, is NOT something I'd think ANYONE would want to revisit.

And yet, Jim always kept hope, developed friendships, developed a love for airplanes, a respect for the Japanese, and a love of learning in general... despite his circumstances.

This tragedy is still full of hope.

This balance is rather amazing and unique.

I totally recommend it.

Original Review:

I don't know whether it's a mistake to read all the other things this great SF author has read first and THEN read this brilliant WWII novel of a young kid lost in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation or whether it might be best to see all the wildness of his short stories, longer fictions, and utter fascination with flying and emotional deadening in the middle of tragedy FIRST.

Or whether everyone and anyone with even a slight interest in reading one of the very best novels of the war should drop everything else on their list and jump right into this.

I admit I watched the Spielberg film back in the day, utterly fascinated and totally identifying with Jim, the main character, who just happened to be played by a young Christian Bale, admitting that while this kind of movie was NOTHING like the kinds of movies or books I preferred, and yet falling for it completely...

...right down to the dead-eyed stares after so much starvation, death, and Jim's last vestiges of innocent wonder and miracles retained throughout the very worst that humanity has to offer.

I've seen the movie like four times.

And yet, I only just now read the book AFTER having read several others by the same author AND the complete short story collection.


Maybe I should have started with this. It's brilliant. No two ways about it. I broke down into tears and was amazed by how much further the book takes it even after KNOWING what to expect from the movie.

I'm not exactly NEW to this genre. I shouldn't have been affected this hard. I shouldn't have had to stop the book for several minutes at a time because I couldn't breathe right. It was just... almost... too much for me. Emotionally. I'm wrecked.

Sure, the movie is a good intro or perhaps a companion to this brilliant novel, but by NO MEANS should the novel be skipped. It's just one of those brilliant classics that may be regarded as timeless.

No pressure, right?

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