‘High-Rise’ by J. G. Ballard (1973) – 204 pages
‘High-Rise’ is a unique novel rescued from the 1970s which will soon be a major movie starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, and Sienna Miller.
About 2000 people live in the 40-floor high-rise luxury apartment building. We readers don’t even find out what city or country the high-rise is located in, because the building is pretty much self-contained with its own supermarket, swimming pools, high-speed elevators, exercise facilities, restaurants, and liquor stores. Except to go to work, the residents find little reason to leave the building.
We see events in the building through the eyes of the recently divorced doctor Robert Laing who has an apartment on the twenty-fifth floor. This being the Seventies, Dr. Laing has an eye out for the ladies, and he often gets invited to cocktail parties usually hosted by the well-to-do childless couples on the upper floors. The less affluent people on the lower floors are too busy with their children to throw elaborate parties. Dr. Laing is in the middle, between the upper class residents above and the relatively lower class residents below.
Although the well-to-do upper class residents don’t have children, many do have expensive dogs, and they are usually extremely fussy and exacting about their dogs. What irritates these people is when the residents from the lower floors bring their kids up to the pool on the upper floor, and the kids pee in the swimming pool. Another source of dispute between the floors are the elevators which the residents on the lower floors can bring to a halt and make live miserable for those above.
Soon everyone is complaining about the shiftlessness of those on the lower floors or the arrogance of those on the upper floors. The first violence breaks out when a dog from the upper floors is found drowned in the swimming pool. Things degenerate quickly with skirmishes breaking out among the residents. Those on the upper floors throw bottles down on the balconies below. The lower floors retaliate by taking over the elevators.
The violence escalates, and soon there is all-out war between the floors. There are punitive expeditions, and apartments are ransacked. The electricity goes out sporadically for no good reason. Fights break out in the hallways. Cars parked outside are vandalized. Soon the residents of this ultra-modern apartment building revert to primitive savagery.
This is indeed a brilliant idea for a novel, and I would give the author an A+ for plot. The situation is original and intriguing. However, I found the portrayals of the people in the novel somewhat disappointing, so I will only give the author a C+ for characterization. The male characters are little more than stick figures. The female characters, this being the Seventies, are little more than stick figures with breasts, hips, and thighs. The person or persons who write the screenplay for the movie and the actors will need to flesh out real characters that the audience can identify with.
Read ‘High-Rise’ for its amazing plot.