Perhaps the best thing that me giving Dickens a 2nd chance has brought about is that I've given a couple of other authors a 2nd chance.
Next up - J. G. Ballard
This isn't really giving Ballard a 2nd chance. I've never tried to read him before but I had lumped him in with a group of writers that for some reason I am disdainful of even though they influenced other writers that I like. Also in this group are William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins. Seeing this list makes me realize how unfair it was to lump Ballard in with these authors. Probably something to do with time period and somehow his name in and of itself fits in.
I've given Vonnegut a 2nd chance to no avail. Tom Robbins has more chances than he deserved. Eventually I'll get to Burroughs.
As for Ballard, he has been a huge influence on my current favorite living author*, Will Self. It seemed worthwhile to attempt to overcome my unfounded bias and give him a chance. So I read The Drowned World.
It's a post apocalyptic science fiction novel set in a world that has been flooded in the aftermath of the polar ice caps melting. It explores how a team that is documenting the changes to the earth as well as scavengers are dealing with this change. The main characters seem to embrace the reversion to primordial humanity, while others try to return to impose civilized society and still others are just in it for what they can get as if that has value.
While I can summarize the action, it's difficult to summarize the atmosphere or feeling the book created. It's one of those books where I felt like I was still in it even when not reading. I could smell the book in my clothes. Which was actually a pleasant change from the smell of 2666 which had lingered for a month.
I found myself wanting to revert to the Triassic period with the main characters even while being terrified of that idea. I'm sure the very wet Vermont spring and summer influenced my reading of this book.
It is also one of those books I don't want to talk about too much for fear it will dissipate or change the experience I had reading it. I often feel that way after I've read a Will Self book as well.
I can't recommend it enough and I'm looking forward to reading more by J.G. Ballard. I probably just won't want to talk about it too much.
You can read Will Self's new intro to the book for the Folio Society edition here.
*Favorite Living Author metric used to figure out which living author(s) I will attempt to buy as soon as their books come out. Authors who write memoirs about their daddy issues tend to get disqualified from this list especially if said memoir comes out after a couple of mediocre books.