Michael William West's Reviews > High-Rise

High-Rise by J.G. Ballard
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Oct 26, 11

Read from October 19 to 26, 2011

High Rise's narrative restraint catches up with it in parts, it's a shame as the Lord of the Flies concept hasn't found as interesting a home since that I'm aware of. Pedants beware: verisimilitude is tested here, and continuity wavers in a not-so-good way. Things like this irritate me and strike me as laziness - several references, for example, to the lack of functioning air-conditioning contributing to residents' discomfort after it has been established that we are in autumn/winter. The book piles up plot points and then drops them casually on you throughout. There's a death, then suddenly there's bodies piled up. There's a functioning community, then everyone's eating catfood. It's not until the astonishing and brilliant final chapter that it starts to make some sense, but the crucial element of mystery in the narrative is missing until this point. I feel that High Rise would have functioned better with smaller chronological scope - i.e. not trying to encapsulate the total collapse of civilised society into chaos and insanity, but starting at the beginning of the chaotic reign and looking back on a more civilised past. Also, the entity of the apartment is not sufficiently isolated. There are too many points at which you think that the outside world could/would surely intervene. This would not be a problem in other Ballardian landscapes, but there is too much reference to the outside for it to be ignored entirely. Still, his Graham Greene like understated prose is such a joy to read, it doesn't matter that this is one of the weaker novels, and the ending is, as I said, astonishing and brilliant, one of the few points where the book displays full Ballard plumage. Somewhat poorly-realised, this is only relative to JG Ballard's typical structural brilliance, and remains a fundamentally intriguing text.
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10/25/2011 page 71
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