Technology becomes both the means of self-gratification and the instrument of oneís own mutilation. Humanity is no skyward-looking creature, made in the image of a supreme being, but rather a flawed and earthbound product of nature.

A decade before Ballardís dystopian masterpiece, the novelist Anthony Burgess (1917-1993) gave rise to one of the most contentious works of any modern British author. The highly disturbing A Clockwork Orange (1962) presents a grim landscape inhabited by the thuggish protagonist, Alex, who navigates his late teens by way of burglary, gang violence and rape, before the all-powerful state intervenes by means of a brutal form of rehabilitation. Alex does eventually learn the error of his ways, but crucially not through the dark ministrations of the state.

Burgess, similarly to Ballard, experienced the shadow of warfare, as well as the very personal horror of losing his unborn child, when his pregnant wife was assaulted by American GI deserters during the Second World War.

A none-too-close reading of A Clockwork Orange reveals a close association between the authorís real-life experiences and the actions of his protagonist, as the character of Alex is involved in an unprovoked attack on a couple, of whom the husband is a novelist in the midst of writing a work of fiction entitled A Clockwork Orange.

Burgessí account of a society in which random acts of cruelty and violence are met by a crude and demeaning cure, reveals another depressing perspective on humanity. Given some of the events in Burgessí own life, it is difficult not to conclude that this work was heavily moulded by certain very dark happenings.

Finally, like Ballard and Burgess, the acclaimed writer and Nobel Prize winner William Golding (1911-1993) also struck out into forbidding waters. Novels such as Pincher Martin (1956) and The Spire (1964) address some of the least attractive aspects of the human condition, but it is his earlier work Lord of the Flies (1954) which presents his most damning account of humanity.