Best 1981 Adventures (3)
December 3, 2016
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1981 adventure novels. Happy 35th anniversary!
J.G. Ballard‘s science fiction adventure Hello America.
The plot of Hello America follows a European expedition (in the year 2114) to a North America rendered uninhabitable, some generations earlier, by peak oil and climate change — ostensibly in hopes of discovering the cause of increased radioactive fallout in England. In fact, the expedition’s members, who hail from an efficient but drab socialist utopia, are driven by nostalgia for what America used to mean. Setting off from the deserted skyscrapers of Manhattan, they trek across a vast desert landscape on what we’d now call a “ruin porn” tour — of abandoned hotels, theme parks, shopping centers — en route to the Las Vegas jungle. (What happened? Faced with ecological crisis, in the 1990s, it seems that President Jerry Brown wasted time and resources on escapist cultural projects.) Though the expedition is a failure, we do learn that the insanity of American culture c. 1981 has an important global role to play.
Fun fact: Ballard has described Hello America as, in part, a tribute to Bernard Wolfe’s Limbo.
Let me know if I’ve missed any 1981 adventures that you particularly admire.