If you’re an American chances are very slim you’ve even heard of him let alone read him. In the UK – where they seem much more open to speculative fiction – Ballard is a Significant Name & Writer.
I’ll be honest, I’ve only read the end of the world trilogy: The Drowned World, The Burning World, and The Crystal World. I tried to read Empire of the Sun several times and found the writing so beautiful that I couldn’t get very far into it. I know that doesn’t make sense but it’s true nonetheless. (I’ve been meaning to read his story “The Assassination of JFK Considered as a Downhill Road Race” from The Atrocity Exhibition for something like 30 years – how’s that for procrastination?")
All that said even my limited reading made it clear to me he was one of the greats. The Crystal World is about exactly what the title implies: for unknown reasons a crystallization is spreading across earth, turning everything living or not into crystal. It isn’t written as a horror story – more as journalism. Despite the end-of-the-world scenario, the story is about people not saving the planet (which, spoiler alert, doesn’t get saved). Lord, I am sooooooo tired of SF/Fantasy novels that have to rely on saving the planet/species for all their alleged plot.
Ballard was that rare experimental writer (like Italo Calvino, for example) who could be read just for the story and not as an endurance test.