book review: millennium people

Reading J.G. Ballard books is an activity I find fraught with danger. There are some I really like and some that I really hate. I was pleased to find Millennium People fell into the former category.

The story is of a revolution of the middle class who are the new proletariat, stuck in their unaffordable mortgages, forced to pay outrageous school fees and for parking at meters outside their homes. There are terrorist acts that are designed to be pointless and a person caught up in all this looking for clues to the killer of his wife (she died in an explosion at Heathrow). It reminded me a bit of Fight Club, but without being focused on masculinity as the revolution’s driving trait. There were many Ballardian touches, like the protagonist’s wife who used crutches and a car with modified hand controls even though she didn’t need them any more, loads of smashed up cars a scene at a flight school.

The biggest impediment to my enjoyment of the book was its Britishness. Not knowing the geography I felt like all the neighbourhoods should have been more recognizable, like I was missing reams of information by not having an idea of what Twickenham was like. And the class stuff in general didn’t resonate with my experience of life, though again, we try to ignore that kind of stuff in North America, right? So every time they’re making these impassioned speeches about school fees and stuff, I feel slightly out of it, going “that doesn’t seem so middle-class to me.”

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