In the second of Ballard's early end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it novels, 60 or 70 years of increased radiation due to solar instability have driven up temperatures some 60 degrees in the equatorial zones and submerged much of the coasts and lowlands of the world, and the UN has supervised colonization of the Antarctic plateau and the northern borders of Russia and Canada. Robert Kerans, 40, works at a biological research station at some submerged European city, studying the profusion of ancient jungle plants and reptiles that are throwbacks to the Triassic and Cambrian. A small military detachment has been keeping the peace, but is ordered back to Camp Byrd in Greenland, leaving Kerans, his colleague Dr. Botkin, and the gorgeous, languid Beatrice Dahl at the lagoon. After the troops have left, a white scavenging pirate named Strangman shows up with a depot ship, some hydrofoils, heavy arms, a small army of natives, and a flotilla of giant alligators. An uneasy joviality develops as everyone waits to see what Strangman plans to do. Almost everyone has hard dreams of returning to their embryonic past. Like Ballard's other early novels, this 1962 evocation of an entirely different Earth environment is richly realized.
This report prepared by David Loftus