High-Rise by J. G. Ballard
"Later, as he sat on the balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous months." - One of the best opening sentences I have ever read!
This book is really messed up, but in the best possible way. It takes place in a state of the art High Rise apartment building where the residents cut themselves off from the outside world as the building causes them to degenerate into a more primitive society.
The stand out strength of this book for me is it’s language. It is violent and confrontational. It talks about the physical presence of the building, especially as it disinterests (being broken down both by it’s bad design and it’s inhabitants) as well as the inhabitant’s excitement and hunger for their own violence ind degeneration.
The book seems to drift through time, picking up with characters at different points and I loved this skipping, being able to reflect on how things have change since the last time that character was mentioned. I found myself drawn through the book by my interest in seeing how far things would go. It really got under my skin at times, but in a way that I really like (yep, I’m a freak).
The book fallows three characters closely. I really enjoyed seeing tings from their perspectives, but most of all seeing their different motivations and what they hungered for in this new society which they saw as evolving around them.
A few negative points. The women were very passive and all acted as one homologous group. They had no identities and to be honest I felt like they were all in some drug induced haze throughout. Stylistically this added a certain feel to the book that I wasn’t against, but as a study of human physiology they just weren’t as developed as the men. I would be interested if this is just a theme in this novel, and so a conscious decision, or a common theme with Ballard’s work. The three main characters are all men from a certain time and place and so that could have influenced this perspective. I very much feel that the book could have had even more depth if the women in it hadn’t been pretty much zombies.
I am aware of the film adaptation being made this year and I am curious to see how they do it. I found the book to be very visual, invoking strong imagery. I think it has the potential to translate well to film, however, if done correctly, I’m not sure if I could stomach it.
(Books read in 2014 #13)