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.