A collision course in style, scene and sex: Crash by JG Ballard

The best thing about JG Ballard is that, as a writer, he refuses to be pinned down or hemmed in. He will not let a certain genre or style take control of his work. Instead, he relies on his own imaginative power to tell a unique story every time. Never can this be more evident than in this novel.

Crash details how, after surviving an automobile accident, James is drawn intensely to other car crashes and their victims. Suddenly an entire new world opens up for James, who is guided through it by the mysterious and magnetic Vaughan, whose own car accident changed his life. The pair prowls the highways of southwest London photographing car wrecks and meeting other survivors. The obsession quickly becomes sexual in nature, and so we are introduced through James to a fascinating collection of sexual experiences where the mechanics of cars play an active part. On paper, this sounds crude, but Ballard stirs his surreal fantasies into a new, entirely conceivable reality. Within the world he creates in Crash, this kind of sexuality is perfect, possibly even normal. Never once does Ballard’s invented world falter. It remains a tight, well-conceived universe drawn by a master.

However, one wonders whether Ballard had to spend too much time characterising this world and fleshing out its realistic protagonists that he skipped over the chance to weave in a strong plot. The book does indeed have action, development and suspense but it definitely lacks in drive: Ballard could have revved up the stakes somewhat with a little more complexity to the actual story.

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