Fiction Reviews

Rushing to Paradise

(1999) J.G. Ballard, pub, 5.99, pbk, pp. ISBN ?


J. G. Ballard's latest book came out in paperback in the same week that the French resumed atomic testing in the Pacific. Someone more prone to conspiracies than me might think this was all a plot by Flamingo Publishing to make sure the book got plenty of publicity.

In Rushing to Paradise a group of people come to the Pacific atoll of Saint Esprit to prevent the French from carrying out a nuclear test. The group is brought to the world's attention when one of them is shot in the foot by a French soldier.

After that the island becomes a sanctuary to which endangered species are brought from all over the world. It seems like a paradise. Large companies, eager to show their green credentials, give the islanders free supplies of food and medical equipment. Greenpeace ships stop on the island, and their crews see it as a model for the future. But things aren't quite what they seem.

A strange fever begins to strike down the island's male population. Those who don't die just disappear. Only one man seems to have escaped, but then he comes down with the fever and realises that his days are numbered.

Meanwhile, Dr Barbara Rafferty - the group's leader - is becoming increasingly disturbed. She orders all of the food dumped in the sea, and the surviving humans are forced to chomp their way through the world's endangered species.

There's a lot of humour in this book: no great laughs, but a general feeling that Ballard is taking the piss. In one scene, a plane arrives at the island with a cargo of rare species: back in the camp, the cook begins to sharpen her knives in anticipation of fresh meat for dinner.

I think Ballard is trying to be cautionary with this story, by pointing out that even liberal causes can attract fanatics: people who will stop at nothing in order to do what they think is best for the world - and to hell with the rest of us.

Jason Jarvis

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