High-Rise by J.G. Ballard
My sister read J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise and then wrote a rave review on Goodreads, calling it a sort of adult version of Lord of the Flies, set in a high-rise apartment building. I was sufficiently intrigued, and also by the news of a recent movie adaptation. You know me—read book first, then watch movie. So I read this book in an evening, while The Chancellor was under an enormous time crunch to get his final grades in. I decided to stay up and be supportive, and then I ended up falling asleep around 2 am. Oops. That also made the reading experience a little stranger.
High-Rise focuses on Robert Laing, a young doctor who has just moved into the 25th floor of a high-rise apartment building. He befriends a divorced woman and her son, as well as a documentary film maker who lives in one of the lower floors. While he explores the building, he discovers three social strata: the highest, the apartments in the middle floors (such as his and Charlotte’s), and the lowest floors populated by families. The tenuous peace quickly erupts as petty complaints and lack of care turn into violence, which then escalates into a complete demolition of law and order.
This book is an incisive, no-holds-barred criticism of our society’s greed, consumerism, and bent to violence. It’s fascinating and disgusting all at once. There were moments I laughed and cringed alternately. But be warned, it’s really visceral. I mean, animals get eaten. And I’m not talking about cows and chickens, either.