So which book of his would those who are familiar with him suggest as a good introduction? I remember hear positive things about Atrocity Exhibition, and I heard something about High Rise lately (movie adaption I think?), and of course have seen Crash. But I really don't know anything about his actual writing.
Crash, the novel, is an incredible piece of writing.Ballard himself admits he was probably "mentally-ill" when he wrote it.The film does it very little justice.It is intense, obsessional, fetishistic, erotic, psychotic.People to whom I've recommended it either love it or can't read it.
Atrocity Exhibition is also recommended, and for me The Crystal World is his most interesting "disaster" novel. I do think that he has effectively run out of ideas now, and has been recycling himself for years .The quote from Sontag is probably spot on, he hasn't written a "great" novel, but he DOES write great short-stories, and thats where his best work lies IMO.Several of his short stories manage to take you so deep into states of mind considered psychotic thats its hard to imagine that he isn't suffering from these himself.
The Re/Search book on Ballard (not their large format edition of Atrocity Exhibition, the other one) is a great introduction to the mans work, and has some Burroughs in it too, if I remember correctly (I'm at work so can't look it up right now), as there are sections throughout it where other writers and artists discuss his work and his influence on them.