Literature Ballard, J. G. Millennium People

ISBN 13: 9780002258487

Millennium People

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9780002258487: Millennium People

Violent rebellion comes to London’s middle classes in the extraordinary new novel from the author of ‘Cocaine Nights’ and ‘Super-Cannes’.

When a bomb goes off at Heathrow it looks like just another random act of violence to psychologist David Markham. But then he discovers that his ex-wife Laura is among the victims. Acting on police suspicions, he starts to investigate London's fringe protest movements, falling in with a shadowy group based in the comfortable Thameside estate of Chelsea Marina.

Led by a charismatic doctor, the group aims to rouse the docile middle classes to anger and violence, to free them from both the self-imposed burdens of civic responsibility and the trappings of a consumer society – private schools, foreign nannies, health insurance and overpriced housing.

Markham, seeking the truth behind Laura’s death, is swept up in a campaign that spirals rapidly out of control. Every certainty in his life is questioned as the cornerstones of middle England become targets and growing panic grips the capital…

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Review:

The peasants, goes a tedious old joke about Wat Tyler's mob, are revolting. In JG Ballard's unnerving, prophetic novel Millennium People, however, it's the middle classes that are staging the revolution: blowing up the NFT, burning their books and defaulting on their maintenance charges. Rejecting, in short, everything that they've worked so hard for--The Bonfire of the Volvos, as one rather droll chapter heading has it.

At the forefront of this petit bourgeois insurrection are the occupants of Fulham's Chelsea Marina, (as ever with Ballard) an exclusive housing community. Led by the charismatic Dr Richard Gould, a disgraced paediatrician turned "Doctor Moreau of the Chelsea set", Marina residents Kay Churchill, a former film lecturer; civil servant Vera Britain and Stephen Dexter, the parish vicar and an injured airman (another Ballard perennial) have unleashed an arson campaign against targets deemed suitably middle class.

David Markham, a psychiatrist and the book's steely narrator, is drawn into the Marina's inner circle after his ex-wife Laura is killed in an apparently meaningless bomb attack at Heathrow airport, (prime Ballard territory, of course). Meaningless is the insistent motif: Markham's current wife Sally was crippled in a freak accident and the murder of a banal if inoffensive television presenter (loosely modelled on Jill Dando) is one of the seemingly random violent acts unleashed by Gould, precisely because of their apparent randomness. "The absence of rational motive", as he says, "carries a significance of its own".

A master of sustained unease, Ballard has again excelled in fashioning a gripping, psychologically disturbing novel, that, like High Rise or Super-Cannes, is part cultural analysis and part surreal social prediction. --Travis Elborough

Review:

Praise for ‘Super-Cannes’:

‘Sublime…The first essential novel of the 21st century.’ Independent

Praise for ‘Cocaine Nights’:

‘Britain’s number one living novelist. This adds a glinting new facet to his achievement – Ballard, detective-novelist extraordinary.’ Sunday Times

Praise for ‘The Complete Short Stories’:

‘Compelling…one of the most haunting, cogent and individual imaginations in contemporary literature.’ William Boyd, Mail on Sunday

Esquire – Sept 2003
"Ballard, acutely fierce as ever, detonates a bomb under Middle England in his continuing attempt to shock the middle classes out of complacency and into violent struggle"

Bookseller – 20 June 03
"[Ballard's] work has lost none of its power to disturb. Millennium People dissects a society without purpose, in which a population is numbed by an infantilising culture and invigorated only by the appeal of violence…"

Daily Telegraph – 23 August 2003
"…a horribly riveting work from a writer of rare imaginative largesse, a bearer of bad tidings unforgettably told."

Literary Review – Sept 2003
"Once again Ballard offers a masterly portrayal of a society coming apart at its civilised seams. And his text shimmers with the totems of modernity… There's still no disputing that Ballard is one of the most intelligent, important and thought-provoking writers this country has to offer. He tackles the modern human condition like no other writer. It is only a matter of time before Ballardian enters the English language."

TLS – 5 September 2003
"One of the novel's most successful aspects is the plausibility with which Ballard sketches the possible crossovers between political motivation and motiveless sociopathy, and Markham's attempts to resolve both the situation and his own mind are also rendered with a convincing giddy energy, as the plot moves to an inevitably violent conclusion."

The Independent – 6 September 2003 (article entitled 'Dystopian Rhapsody')
"Millennium People is a Thames-side thriller which opens with a bomb that explodes at Heathrow…The attack on Terminal 2 turns out to be the work, not of Islamic terrorists, but of British professionals… Britain's middle-classes are the 'new proletariat'…
Few writers find poetry in burning Heathrow freight offices and car-rental depots: Ballard can…. Ballard is a moralist apparently troubled by the shape of things to come and a literary saboteur of unswerving fierceness… Millennium People will compete with the best of contemporary British fiction."

Evening Standard – 1 September 2003
"Reading it is like having all the planks that underpin your life removed one by one and being forced to confront the brutality and emptiness that lies below"

Guardian (Magazine) – 6 September 2003
"Millennium People is a wonderful miasma of Ballard land."

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