After her captain and most of her crew abandon ship, a freighter carrying mysterious bioactive chemicals runs aground on an abandoned Caribbean island, causing runaway fecundity.

This feels similar in some ways to The Terminal Island, at least in its initial setting: a man who is fleeing the past is stranded on an island with a history of military devastation, and strange things happen. “The Terminal Island” exists in the shadow of nuclear war, while “Dream Cargoes” is about enviro-industrial calamity. There’s also a colonial veneer here (as there is in many Ballard stories): the island near Puerto Rico was ruined and abandoned by the U.S. military; the man who has taken command of the Prospero (unsubtle but not unwelcome …) is a Caribbean native who grew up in a shack near the airport, not explicitly but presumably Black; the biologist who is examining the island, and manipulating Johnson, is a North American woman (not explicitly but presumably white) using her research as a means to move from a college in San Juan to Harvard. Ballard is very good at mimicking the voices of colonial power – here, the biologist and the U.S. Navy attachment that comes to her rescue – and also at giving a glimpse through the eyes of the colonized.