MILLENNIUM PEOPLE by J. G. Ballard
“People donâ€™t like themselves today. Weâ€™re a rentier class left over from the last century. We tolerate everything, but we know that liberal values are designed to make us passive. We think we believe in God but weâ€™re terrified by the mysteries of life and death…Weâ€™re an accident of nature, but think weâ€™re at the center of the universe. Weâ€™re a few steps from oblivion, but we hope weâ€™re somehow immortalâ€¦”
Review by Bill Brody Â (SEP 4, 2011)
Millennium People by J. G. Ballard is an important existential novel, not as some suggest about the corrosive effects of technology, but rather about the vacuity of middle class life. As the middle class comes to realize that all the things for which they have yearned are meaningless traps, they become consumed by a fear of nothingness. In response they seek authenticity. They find authentic feelings from violence and protest, the more meaningless and random the better.
The protagonist is a psychologist whose ex-wife was killed by a bomb that went off in the luggage carousel at Heathrow. He has decided to infiltrate a middle class revolutionary movement in order to investigate the crime. In the course of his investigation he becomes involved with their charismatic leader and her shadowy mentor in revolution; a doctor who specializes in treating terminally ill children; and a priest who has lost his faith only to see it becoming reborn out of violence.
Characters in this novel posit that true meaning can only be found in authenticity, an authenticity that derives most purely from absurd acts of meaningless rage. Inescapably we are led to the conclusion that the fear of nothingness is the fear of a very real situation that finds a remedy only in escape from the entire system via revolution. The middle class will go to revolution only if fortified by a fresh cappuccino and never in yesterdayâ€™s underwear. They are vacuous revolutionaries. Their revolution is by its very nature foredoomed to failure. God is found only in the absurd, particularly in meaningless violence.
One might consider this book as an explanation of Osama Bin Laden and al Qaida. He was the spoiled and educated child of wealthy Saudis; a man who had learned that there were no consequences to his actions. His search for authenticity led him to embrace the stupidest, most ignorant excesses of Islamist fundamentalism and the most profoundly absurd violence against that icon of modernity, the World Trade Center, emblem of 20th century America. The result has been a Holy war that corrodes life on all sides and resolves absolutely nothing. But a similar analysis can be made for Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing and those children who commit mayhem in public schools, further demonstrating the point that meaningless violence is the middle classâ€™ response to the void of inauthenticity. For that matter, the same could be said of many of our political leaders for whom consequences are for the under classes.
This is a whale of a good read, well plotted, competently told and with an important message about the core meaninglessness of our civilization. It is also profoundly pessimistic. Ballard is the real thing and this next to the last book of his life should be read by anyone with an interest in the Hell that is modern middle class liberal culture.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 8 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (July 5, 2011)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Wikipedia page on J. G. Ballard|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of:
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- The Drowned World (1962)
- The Drought (1964)
- The Crystal World (1968)
- Crash (1973)
- Concrete Island (1974)
- High Rise (1975)
- The Unlimited Dream Company (1979)
- Hello America (1981)
- Empire of the Sun (1984)
- The Day of Creation (1987)
- Running Wild (1988)
- The Kindness of Women (1991)
- Rushing to Paradise (1994)
- Cocaine Nights (1996)
- Super-Cannes (2000)
- The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard (November 2010)
- Millennium People (2003; July 2011)
- Kingdom Come (2006; March 2012)
Movies from books:
- When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970)
- Empire of the Sun (1987)
- Crash (1996)
- The Atrocity Exhibition (2001)