Jack's Reviews > High-Rise

High-Rise by J.G. Ballard
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's review
Nov 16, 2008

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Read in November, 2008

My first Ballard, and definitely good enough to prompt more in the future. The events follow a familiar Lord of Flies pattern of social entropy, with a high-rise building becoming an island unto itself. What's really bold and disturbing about how the tenants' degeneration into barbarism in Ballard's book is that is largely voluntary. Peopld marooned on an island, stranded in space, etc., usually succumb to their primitive instincts; Ballard's characters embrace those instincts like old friends with whom they were waiting for a pretext to reunite. This dimension also gives the book a disturbing tinge of realism even as the characters' deevolution becomes otherwise caricaturesque; people are becoming animals and refusing to leave the building or seek out help because they don't really want to, or because the building has come to so dominate their psyche that they can't understand anything else.

I thought the classsist allegories in the first half of the book were a little much at times, but then I came to really appreciate the undertone that tribal warfare is, in both theory and practice, only a few steps removed from existing tensions among the lower, middle, and upper classes. And all, I really enjoyed how integral the elements of modern life were to the allegory. The intended purpose of the high-rise was, after all, to create a building could meet all human needs, accidentally revealing how humans behave when they don't need each other. And seeing that play out in battles for the elevator or the quest to become the sovereign of the building was quite interesting.
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