Thursday, March 01, 2007

High Rise

J.G. Ballard's "High Rise" probably can be classified in the genre usually known as New Wave Science-Fiction. I am a big fan of Sci-Fi (and Fantasy), although it is very hard to exactly tell what Sci-Fi is. There are totally different definitions for Sci-Fi. I prefer to use the term in a general sense to include the works of Stanislaw Lem, Arthur C. Clark and Issac Asimov, for example, although their works are totally different in both style and content, and despite the fact that Lem does not consider himself a Sci-Fi writer (and if you have read his works, you can easily notice how much different they are).

High Rise is even more different than the Sci-Fi works I have read so far but, Sci-Fi or not, I pretty much enjoyed Ballard's masterful style when reading High Rise, as the first book by him I read.

(Spoilers Coming)
High Rise is about the life of the 2000 people who live in an ultramodern forty-story building. The high rise offers all the services needed by its occupants (who are mostly highly educated professional people). Just by the time the tenants of the last apartment arrive life in the high rise starts to gradually change.

It starts quite innocently by things like a wine bottle smashing over Dr. Laing's balcony and later by short power failures. Soon violence spreads quickly across the building. The residents divide themselves into three classes: the lower class, the middle class, and the higher class. This classification matches both their social class and the floors they live in (the lower class are those who live in the first ten floors, the higher class live in the upper floors, and the middle class in between).

The high rise, initially designed to offer anything its tenants need, now becomes a completely isolated world in which the residents try abandoning all their relationships with the outside world and even convincing others that everything is going fine inside.

Life in the high rise changes quickly from the three-class environment into a hunter/gatherer culture; just like they have time-traveled thousands of years back in time, to the dawn of the human kind.
(No more spoilers)

I came across High Rise accidentally in the library, and I'm glad I found it. Now I'm planning to read more books from Ballard. If you're not sure which book you're going to read next, you may want to try High Rise.

I have also read a film adaptation is underway for 2008.


Bev said...


Where did you get the front cover picture for High Rise? Looking for a good quality version...

Homayoon said...

It's the cover of the first edition of the book. I think, it was Wikipedia's image for the High Rise article that I posted here, but I can't be sure. Current Wikipedia cover image is of less quality. I guess they might have downsized it for copyright reasons. You might want to check the page history (though I don't think the history keeps deleted images).