Ballards first novel is another apocalyptic story, this time about...well..a wind that came out of nowhere.
The premise is that the air around the world started moving as one in a westerly direction, slowly and getting faster and faster each day. At first mankind is merely inconvenienced by things like cancelled flights but gradually they are forced to batton down the hatches more and more as the wind picks up.
No one really knows what started this weather system or when it will stop. It seemed to me that Ballard kept it deliberately vague; at one point someone speculates upon some unlikely scientific explanation but then undermines it by saying it is just as likely to be an act of God to purge the world of our civilization. Indeed, it's nature is kept ambiguous througout leaving the reader wondering whether it's only purpose was to humble mankind, to show us that nature cannot be dominated.
This seemed to me the most conventionally written of his novels that I have read in which he is only beginning to develop the themes that he would explore in more depth later on such as a shift in emphasis from the external events of the apocalypse to the internal, psycological reaction to these events. Early on in the story, one of the protagonists wonders whether this wind might not be a good thing, to breathe a breath of fresh air into our stale world although he ultimately rejects this position as it clears out all the good along with the bad. And at various points, characters seem to become transfixed by the wind, absorbed by it, unable and unwilling to tare themselves away even if it means their death.
This short book had a split narrative, leaving little space in which to develop the characters as much as it should have done to make us care more about them. I was also suprised by the level of apparent sexism which I don't normally associate with Ballard. Apparently he disliked this novel and tried to disown it later but I thought it was worth a read, even though it is not the best of his early apocalyptic novels.