Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, June 1, 2012

1971: Vermilion Sands (Ballard J.G.)

Individually unique yet monotonous as a whole (4/5)
From May 23, 2011

My only experience with Ballard was with his cataclysmic novel The Drought (1965). It was hauntingly beautiful and I only a few authors could be compared to Ballard's fluency and ease at using the English language. I was nearly aching to delve into Ballard's short work to see how seamlessly he could pen a perfectly tidy story. This was my first foray into his short work.

Rear cover synopsis:
"Vermilion Sands is J.G. Ballrd's fantasy playground of the future--a latterday Palm Springs. It is populated by forgotten movie queens and dilettantes dreaming up malicious games to relieve the boredom of a technocratic society. Only in such a phantasmagorical setting could poets be ravished by the temperamental Aurora Day. Only here could plants sing arias and clouds be fashioned according to the aesthetic whims of drugged beachcombers. But life is this strange colony is also fraught with danger, the danger of ideas that turn into perverse pleasures."

Entirely taking place within the Ballard-dreamt landscape in the desert resort named Vermilion Sands, each story is based on some exotic art form conjured up by the author. One of the running themes is the "sonic sculpture" which tends to record sound, reproduce frequencies, and harmonize with each other sculptures. The idea is intriguing (especially to someone like me with a history of both sculpting and audio production) but it is mentioned too often and becomes commonplace rather than a centerpiece for a single story. Likewise, all the stories involve some sort of artsy gloss (poets, painters, sculptors, florists, singer, etc.) and the monotony of witnessing the artists' world is tedious and best taken in bits, like one story a day (it would have been torture to complete this in two days).

While each story in itself is good or great, treat the book as a whole and the collection spurs ennui. If Ballard were to switch it up a bit, the book make not have been as monotonous as it had been. But because, after a few days, I took it bit by bit, I found the collection to be pretty good.

The Cloud-Scultpors of Coral D (1967) - 4/5 - Flying cloud sculptures are hired to depict their work in dedication to a narcissistic heiress with varying degrees of portrayal, types of cloud meanwhile trying to withhold the artistic license. 20 pages

Prima Belladonna (1956) - 5/5 - A beautiful songstress enters town, much to the pleasure of the boys across the street but fails to impress the sonic florist, whose arachnid flower takes envy in the talent of the singer. 16 pages

The Screen Game (1963) - 3/5 - A film production crew move into town to shoot and hire a painter to color the canvas of a million square meters (nearly) who falls for an ashen prisoner who then also falls for the painter's prints. 18 pages

The Singing Statues (1962) - 4/5 - Two sculptors deceptively sell a gaudy collector a large piece, only having to return secretly every fortnight to replace the magnet tape storing the sympathetic music. 16 pages

Cry Hope, Cry Fury! (1967) - 3/5 - A lonely sand yacht captain rescues a man from the desert only to have his likeness portrayed onto canvas, which mysteriously changes overnight to be more like her long lost love. 20 pages

Venus Smiles (1957) - 4/5 - A sculptor is hired to create a sonic sculpture for the square but when unveiled, the piece is much despised so the curator takes it home and much to his dismay, the thing grows in dimension and cadence. 16 pages

Say Goodbye to the Wind (1970) - 3/5 - Organic cloth shop owner sells a new wardrobe to the girlfriend of a dead organic cloth designer and when the cloth begins throwing spasms, the relationship and mystery begin. 18 pages

Studio 5, The Stars (1961) - 4/5 - The editor of a poem magazine full of poem by so-called poets possess auto-poem machines, but when his new neighbor, also a poem, forces to handwrite their odes, chaos ensues. 40 pages

The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista (1962) - 5/5 - Psychotropic houses are imprinted with the personalities and memories of the previous tenants, but that doesn't stop a couple from moving into a house with an eerie, familiar past. 24 pages

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