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J G Ballard: Day of Creation

Dr. Mallory runs a WHO clinic in the small town of Port-la-Nouvelle, somewhere in the back end of Africa. However, there are the usual wars going on, as guerrillas and the military clash. Mallory, meanwhile, with virtually no patients, dreams of creating an irrigation project in the area to help the region as a previous study indicated that there might be an underground aquifer nearby. A tractor, extending the runway for an airstrip, knocks down some trees and leaves a cavity. In this cavity a small pool appears. The pool expands and, eventually, becomes a river. Where did the river come from? It came from Dr. Mallory, after whom the river is soon named. When I say it came from Mallory, it came from inside his head. His desire for it to be there created it.

Mallory picks up an odd collection of people – the silent girl, Noon, a documentary film maker trying to revive his reputation, the widow of a veterinary surgeon, whose menagerie has done well in the new environment and the two petty military leaders, Kagwa and Harare. All have their own agenda but the river, the whole environment, is inside Mallory’s head and what Ballard brilliantly does is show how our inner space can spill out and affect the world at large but, ultimately, it is our space, our dream and we can, more or less, control it. Mallory wants to control the river and he and his group try to find the source so that he can do just that. And he can.

Publishing history

First published 1987 by Victor Gollancz