Book Review: High Rise

High Rise is a novel by J. G. Ballard, which explores how modern landscapes can alter the human psyche. The book is about a high-rise apartment block, which was designed to be the most perfect living space. However, as the high-rise psychically degenerates, the tenants of the high-rise morally degenerate.

I decided to read High Rise after reading The Unlimited Dream Company for university. I wrote a blog post about The Unlimited Dream Company, which you can read here.  Comparatively, High Rise is so much better.

High Rise has a coherent narrative, a conventional narrative form, and clearly defined characters: all of which are lacking from The Unlimited Dream Company. I have no idea why The Unlimited Dream Company was selected for a module about Dystopian literature and High Rise wasn’t.

High Rise has an interesting concept, though I thought the fact the lower-class citizens lived on the bottom floors and the upper-class citizens lived on the top floors was a bit … simple.

The novel foregrounds themes of class and civilisation and questions the arbitrary nature of social status and civilised behaviour as, once disaster strikes, these social codes disintegrate entirely because the tenants of the high-rise revert back to primitive states of being.

I liked the way the apartments became like prisons, as tenants wanted to leave the increasingly horrible state of the apartment building and yet were either trapped by more “feral” tenants or couldn’t bring themselves to escape because of the money they’d invested in their apartment.

The story was interesting and entertaining, even though none of the characters were likeable – I think this was intentional – and some parts of the novel were a little difficult to follow.

After reading High Rise, my main reaction was simply relief that it wasn’t as horrible, bizarre, confusing, or incoherent as The Unlimited Dream Company.

Read High Rise if you’d like. Avoid The Unlimited Dream Company.

– Judith

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Book Review: Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone.

Gone by Midnight by Candice Fox is the third novel in a series of crime and detective books called the Crimson Lake series. I didn’t realise this before reading but in my opinion, the book functions well as a standalone too.

They left four children safe upstairs.

They came back to three.

Reminiscent of the infamous Madeleine McCann case, a child goes missing from a hotel. The child’s parents insisted they checked the room regularly, to check all was well, whilst dining at a nearby restaurant.

Gone by Midnight is set in Queensland, Australia. I enjoyed this because I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in Australia before, and there were dramatic scenes involving a crocodile or two (of course) which was a fun addition to the narrative.

On the whole, the book was gripping. I genuinely didn’t know what had happened to the missing child or who was to blame, and I was keen to find out.

I thought Ted Conkaffey, the investigator, dealt well with the situation and the discussion of clues and possibilities was informative and realistic. However, Conkaffey is an unusual character because, although is a privately hired investigator to uncover the mystery behind the child’s disappearance, Conkaffey is also a falsely accused paedophile. I don’t think it’s the best decision for one’s public image to get involved with a missing child case.

Conkaffey’s sidekick, Amanda Pharrell is a convicted murderer, and is another character whose involvement in this case looks potentially dodgy. I thought Amanda rode a very fine line between being different for the sake of being different and “cool”, and deliberately irritating and dislikeable. Personally, I didn’t find her wacky attitude or her darkly comic one-liners particularly entertaining.

Overall, I think I enjoyed the story of Gone by Midnight more than the specific characters. The climax of the novel had a really exciting build-up, and this was probably my favourite section of the entire book.

Gone by Midnight is released today! It is available to buy as a paperback, hardback, or e-book directly from Penguin Books.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

– Judith

Book Review: The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish

I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Flame Tree Press, an imprint of Flame Tree Publishing.

The Haunting of Henderson Close is a ghost story, with elements of supernatural and historical fiction, by Catherine Cavendish about the escape of an evil, demonic presence in the heart of Edinburgh.

I was intrigued by the classification of The Haunting of Henderson Close as a horror, mystery and thriller novel, as I love to read books in these genres.

I liked the hints at ghostly activity presented at the start of the book. Gradually, these ghostly hints seem to point towards a more malevolent, demonic activity, suggesting the threat is more serious than a simple haunted museum. At times though, it felt as if Cavendish was trying to write a historical murder mystery rather than a supernatural ghost story, as a lot of the story focuses on Hannah, the protagonist, investigating a Victorian murder case, rather than directly investigating demons, ghosts, and legends of hauntings.

Cavendish’s use of flashbacks provide interesting visions of the past, which brings to life the history behind the museum in which Hannah now works. It’s interesting to know that the streets the protagonist gives historical tours on are the same streets the ghosts once walked on. However, at points, these flashbacks to the past seemed too sudden and jarred with the present-day narrative, so perhaps narrative cohesion and clarity could be improved in the future.

The use of setting was one of the main strengths of the book, as the descriptions of 19th century Edinburgh were detailed and made it easy to imagine just what Victorian Scotland used to look like.

The ending of the book was darker, more serious, and more sad than I had originally anticipated. This is not a criticism however, as I’m not of the opinion that all books must have a happy ending.

Overall, The Haunting of Henderson Close is a reasonable ghost story with an interesting historical concept behind it.

The Haunting of Henderson Close is released today! It is available to buy as a paperback, hardback, or e-book directly from Flame Tree Publishing.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

– Judith