The Wind from Nowhere
Cover to the first edition
|Author||J. G. Ballard|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
The novel was the first of a series of Ballard novels dealing with scenarios of 'natural disaster', in this case seeing civilization reduced to ruins by prolonged worldwide hurricane force winds.
As an added dimension Ballard explores the ways in which disaster and tragedy can bond people together in ways that no normal experiences ever could. This, too, is a recurring theme in his works, making one of its first appearances here.
There is a worldwide wind, constantly westward and strongest at the equator. The wind is gradually increasing, so that at the beginning of the story, the force of the wind is making air travel impossible; later, people are living in tunnels and basements, unable to go above ground; near the end, "The air stream carried with it enormous quantities of water vapour - in some cases the contents of entire seas, such as the Caspian and the Great Lakes, which had been drained dry, their beds plainly visible."
In London, to cope with the situation, special organizations are set up. Central Operations Executive (COE), staffed mainly by War Office personnel, has been set up by Simon Marshall. Combined Rescue Operations is dealing with collapsing buildings; Donald Maitland, a doctor unable to travel to a new job in Canada because of the wind, is part of it. Maitland rescues Marshall when he is injured by falling masonry, and takes him home to recover; in the basement of Marshall's home, Maitland sees military equipment labelled "Hardoon Tower", and wonders whose interests Marshall is really serving.
Hardoon Tower is a pyramid-like structure intended to withstand the wind; it is being built by Hardoon, a millionaire businessman, who has a private army.
Maitland's relationship with his wife Susan is ending, but when he hears that she is still in their apartment, which is on an upper floor, while most people are underground, he goes there; Susan will not be persuaded to leave, and standing by an open window, she is carried away by the wind.
As the destruction increases in London, COE decides to abandon its underground base. One of Hardoon's officers, a helmeted, taciturn figure called Kroll, arrives, and Marshall thinks he is there to take him to Hardoon Tower; instead he kills Marshall.
Maitland is evacuated from the underground base, along with Steve Lanyon, an American submarine captain, and Patricia Olsen, a journalist. Lanyon and Pat Olsen have developed a relationship during recent experiences in Italy. They are in a group who leave in a giant armoured vehicle with a periscope. Maitland, realizing they are passing close to Hardoon Tower, and wanting to investigate it, sabotages the navigation equipment so the vehicle has to go to the tower, which they can locate by a radio signal.
Hardoon receives the group so that Pat Olsen, the journalist, can report his success. The pyramid, built over underground tunnels which are collapsing, starts to fall over in the wind and Hardoon, gazing at the wind through a special window, cannot be saved. Maitland and the others, trying to escape from the destruction, realize they are saved because the wind is starting to subside.