This essay considers a late novel sequence by the British speculative fiction writer J. G. Ballard (1930–2009). Although Ballard is often celebrated as a great iconoclast, there is arguably no postwar novelist with a more recognizable style. The essay analyzes Cocaine Nights (1996), Super-Cannes (2000), Millennium People (2003), and Kingdom Come (2006) as a programmatic fictional project. It identifies five key formal and thematic elements of the late sequence, paying particular attention to the question of setting. In Ballard's late fictions, the gated enclave figures as a privileged spatial agent within the diegesis; the central quality of these enclaves is that they are at once ordinary and extraordinary—set off from any shared social fabric and representative of general psychic and material qualities. Methodologically, the essay begins with critical description, following the grain of Ballard's late novels to show how their plots, themes, and characters relate to their settings. The essay then explores Ballard's autocritical explanation of his mature fiction as a belated response to his childhood in the extraterritorial International Settlement of Shanghai, drawing on his autobiographies as well as new research in his personal manuscripts, now collected at the British Library. Any full exploration of the late novels' autocritical energies must go beyond the project of critical description, which by itself produces a historically flat and argumentatively recursive account of Ballard's extraordinary literary accomplishment.

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