The book flips forward to bring the reader into a world post the break down of law and order. The army has gone and the majority of people have died and disappeared as the drought takes hold.
The salt that is produced when the sea is treated blocks the beach and drives the water miles away from the coast.
The party of original escapees lead by Ransom breaks up and heads in different directions all obsessed with the single ambition to find water and survive.
Ransom, like most of Ballard’s leading characters, seems to be in a daze struggling to really recalibrate to changed circumstances. You always sense that he is superior in intellect to most of those around him but in sense of surviving he seems to be doing no better.