Shane's book twenty-four: Kingdom Come by JG Ballard

Modern Britain is bored. Shopping and sport are all its people have left and they frantically consume both in a bid to keep the emptiness away. But the boredom gets worse and it leads to anger, violence and racism. Such is Ballard's thesis in Kingdom Come, a half-formed polemic shabbily disguised as a novel. It opens with Richard Pearson, a recently-fired advertising exec, driving to the Surrey suburb where his father has been shot dead by a gunman in a shopping centre. Arriving in Brooklands, Richard finds a town dominated by the massive Metro-Centre shopping mall by day and patrolled by George Cross-wearing, sports fan thugs at night.

What happens in the rest of the largely incoherent plot isn't really worth bothering with. Characters change sides every other scene (in fact, it's not clear what the sides are - even at the end of the book), everyone talks to each other in implausible slogans and people grip each other by the shoulders a lot.

Eventually Richard becomes the brains behind the shopping centre and is seemingly both responsible for and repulsed by the escalating racial violence. Not that he does much about it. In fact, Richard doesn't do much of anything. His detective work in the early phase of the book consists of being ferried from one location to another just in time to witness a major plot event. Then he forms a complicated theory - utterly unsupported by any evidence - which he holds just long enough for another plot device to show up.

The most developed part of his character is his car - and Ballard blows that up halfway through. When Richard meets a man he suspects him of conspiring against him and when he meets a woman he wonders whether she slept with his dad. He thinks like a bad thriller writer:

Sergeant Falconer reached out to take the round but I closed my hands around her fingers, pressing the warm bullet into her soft palm. I was surprised that she made no attempt to free her hand. She watched my eyes in her level way, undisturbed by my overtly sexual play, and waiting to see what I would do. If it was true that she liked to attach herself to powerful men, then there was a vacancy in her life now that Fairfax and Superintendent Leighton had moved from the scene. As David Cruise's vizier, I was certainly powerful, and might fill that vacancy. The Heckler & Koch bullet, identical to the one that killed my father, was my valentine to her. By getting close to this attractive but conflicted woman, watching her heat the coffee milk in my father's kitchen, I might learn the truth about his death."

Did I mention that Richard is separated from his wife? With a seduction technique like that it's a wonder he got married in the first place.

Anyway: consumerism/sport = bad. The rest is just padding.

Read something else instead.