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The ​forces of nature are pitted against humanity in The Crystal World , J. G. Ballard’s fourth novel. Dr. Edward Sanders, a physician specializing in the treatment of leprosy, is invited to Mont Royal by Dr. and Mrs. Clair. Upon arriving at Port Matarre, a small outpost in the interior of Africa, he notices a “pervading auroral gloom, broken by inward shifts of light.” The reluctance of authorities to acknowledge this curious mid-morning darkness arouses Sander’s suspicion that something has gone wrong. Unable to reach Mont Royal by car—the roadways have been blocked—he takes to the river. His journey brings him to the forest, now fully petrified, pulsating and vibrant. Sanders finds himself strangely drawn toward this glittering world, whose area expands daily, affecting not only the physical environment but also its inhabitants. The purity and permanence of the forest’s crystal form taunt him, even at the expense of that one unpredictable agent called human life.

First published in 1966, The Crystal World established Ballard’s reputation as a writer of extraordinary talent and imaginative powers. The Times Literary Supplement hailed him at the time as “one of the most sensitive and enigmatic novelists of the present day.”

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