Researcher Donald Maitland is separating from his wife Susan and preparing to leave London for a job in Vancouver when he finds himself grounded like everyone else because windspeed has been climbing around the world. The wind picks up roughly 5 mph a day, reaching 55 mph, then 90 mph, then 180 mph and far beyond, and turning the skies black with loosened topsoil and debris. Cities collapse, millions seek refuge in subways, sewers, military bunkers, caves. Maitland joins the British government's team to maintain order, while American sub commander Lanyon makes his way across the Italian and French riviera on a mission to retrieve a general's body, then save his sub (accompanied by NBC news reporter Patricia Olsen). The cast ends up prisoners in the bunker complex and pyramid of megalomaniacal British millionaire Hardoon, who is determined to face down the elements and pick up the pieces of society if the wind ever subsides. This 1962 book is in many ways the most conventional of Ballard's quartet of planetary disaster novels, with predictable characterizations and familiar action thriller scenes (and its dating shows in Tokyo's early demise as a "cardboard jungle"), but as always, his visualization of an entire world gone haywire is richly realized.
This report prepared by David Loftus