Like many other 35-year-old readers, I discovered British author J.G. Ballard when Steven Spielberg directed a big-screen adaptation of his 1984 novel “Empire of the Sun” with Christian Bale and John Malkovich. One reason the┬ámovie was less than successful, I thought then and think now, was because of a salty, morbid tang that ran through the 1987 film’s depiction of Ballard’s semi-autobiographical memoir about growing up in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. This was not Spielberg saccharin, though it did shine through with the best aspects of his directing style.