So today I want to share my thoughts on the novel 'High Rise' by J.G Ballard which I've recently just finished reading. I so want to read more of Ballard's work as it is a fantastic, and essential part to any Sci-Fi collection. It would be amazing to add more of his work. This review will contain some spoilers so please be warned!
I also had no idea that this film was released as a major movie, until I saw the sticker on the front of the book (The biggest annoyance ever). However, I went in reading this book with fresh eyes, I didn't even read the blurb. Someone I knew once told me to NEVER read the back. Whilst I've found this advice hard to take on I decided I wanted to do it with this book.
'High Rise' by J.G Ballard leads an exciting narrative that flits between three different people; following their lives in the High Rise. The High Rise itself contains all the necessities needed to live and function. These include, a shopping complex, a swimming pool, a roof garden, and so forth. Ballard makes clear from the start the divide between the rich and the poor, the higher you are the richer you are. Through this Ballard is directly relating this to a real life society, often the higher you are in society the richer you are. As the novel moves forward, things steadily get worse for the residents in the High Rise.
One of the pivotal changes within the novel is when a wealthy jeweller jumps, committing suicide. The brutal decline soon begins. Yet, the reader should take this as no surprise as already small incidents occur before the High Rise really begins to deteriorate. In the first reading, the reader may see these things as nothing unusual, rubbish slowly piling up, lights faltering. It's nothing that sights any immediate problem that can not be resolve. This is what Ballard remains finest at doing, subtly. Nothing the reader that the reader would allude to as being wrong in any regard.
Yet, as things turn sour in the High Rise, Ballard remains un-afraid to strip bare the decline of the residents. The residents end up dehumanising themselves, turning back into ape like creatures. the Morlocks of H.G Wells 'The Time Machine'. It's both poignant and sharp, rape, murder, suicide are all but some of the occurrences that begin to take place. It's horrifying, grotesque even but once again Ballard is brazen with these issues. His work 'Crash' written two years early illustrates Ballard's nature. to not hold censored information back. The events within the novel deteriorate further. the residents begin to loose language, disregard bodily functions and eventually become cavemen and women. The end is both poignant and tragic, these residents are but comfortable, symbiotic with each others actions, it's harrowing to the reader. I wanted to scream at these residents, to wake them up from this dystopia nightmare.
I think I enjoyed 'High Rise' as much as I did due to this; rather than accepting modern society as a perfect, cohesive, working system, Ballard rips this less than perfect façade in two. However, saying this I felt it was done almost too well, and I somehow wish that some things had begun to make only a slight resolve. For at least one resident to protest, to fight back at the system, all the protagonists within this novel accept their fate. Yet again, maybe this is Ballard's way of saying that sheep come in a flock, their are no black sheep within the High Rise. Everyone accepts the way things are. Things are as they should be.
To conclude, 'High Rise' is not only a sci-fi novel but a novel that makes you proceed with caution into your everyday life. It screams for you to open your eyes, to become aware of your surroundings and who are YOU out of the High Rise bubble. I wish that this was a book studied at University, because it teaches so much.
Recommendations if you enjoyed this novel:
'Make Room! Make Room!' - Harry Harrison
'The Bridge' - Iain Banks
Both these novels deal with impending societal crises and they are two books I thoroughly enjoyed!