The basic plot set-up is (perhaps overly) familiar from his other later novels such as 'Running Wild', 'Cocaine Nights', 'Super-Cannes' and 'Millennium People' - a personal inquiry into a mass-murder in some more or less self-contained community reveals deeper psychological truths about our wider society. But it's a formula that's mostly worked well. This latest one appears to continue the more explicitly contemporary political concerns of 'Millennium People' - the main question here being can consumerism turn into fascism?
Consumerism rules the lives of everyone in the motorway towns, but it is a form of consumerism that co-exists with an obsessive interest in sport and a perverted pride in English nationalism. Racist attacks on immigrant communities are widespread, and the sports meetings are virtually political rallies. Supporters clubs march through the streets, waving their flags and banners, waiting for a new leader to guide them to the promised land. The leader soon appears in an unexpected way.
Suburban psychopathologies are nothing new in Ballard, but an overt and specifically contemporary political element is becoming increasingly prominent in his work. As he said himself a few years ago, he's becoming more left wing as he gets older. To be honest, I didn't think that the political elements of 'Millennium People' worked that well, but it'll still be intriguing to see this new book. I can't think of any other major novelists tackling the current resurgence of petty British nationalism and far-right politics - does it really take a 75-year-old, with real personal experience of the fascism of WWII, to speak up?