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High Rise (Flamingo Modern Classic) Paperback – January 3, 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 142 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Ballard's finest novel ... a triumph' The Times 'ingenious ... 'High-Rise' is an intense and vivid bestiary, which lingers unsettlingly in the mind' Martin Amis 'Chilling ... Ballard is a prophetic writer' Sunday Times 'The writing is cool, the observation exact, the idea bold and well-developed; everything seems to demand attention and analysis' Financial Times 'The terrifying thing about Ballard is his logic; is this science fiction or history written ahead of its time?' Len Deighton

About the Author

J. G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai. After internment in a civilian prison camp, his family returned to England in 1946. His 1984 bestseller 'Empire of the Sun' won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. His controversial novel 'Crash' was made into a film by David Cronenberg. His autobiography 'Miracles of Life' was published in 2008, and a collection of interviews with the author, 'Extreme Metaphors', was published in 2012. J. G. Ballard passed away in 2009.
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Product Details

  • Series: Flamingo Modern Classic
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Firebird Distributing; First Paperback Printing edition (January 3, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0586044566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586044568
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,089,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on June 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
J.G. Ballard's 1975 novel "High Rise" contains all of the qualities we have come to expect from this author: alarming psychological insights, a study of the profoundly disturbing connections between technology and the human condition, and an intriguing plot masterfully executed. Ballard, who wrote the tremendously troubling "Crash," really knows how to dig deep into our troubling times in order to expose our tentative grasp of modernity. Some compare this book to William Golding's "Lord of the Flies," and there are definite characteristics the two novels share. I would argue, however, that "High Rise" is more eloquent and more relevant than Golding's book. Unfortunately, this Ballard novel is out of print. Try and locate a copy at your local library because the payoff is well worth the effort.
"High Rise" centers around four major characters: Dr. Robert Laing, an instructor at a local medical school, Richard Wilder, a television documentary producer, Anthony Royal, an architect, and the high rise building all three live in with 2,000 other people. Throughout the story, Ballard switches back and forth between these three people, recording their thoughts and actions as they live their lives in the new high-rise apartment building. Ballard made sure to pick three separate people living on different floors of the forty floor building: Laing lives on the twenty fifth floor, Wilder lives on the second floor, and Royal lives in a penthouse on the fortieth floor (befitting his status as the designer of the building). Where you live in this structure will soon take on an importance beyond life itself.
At the beginning of the story, most of the people living in the building get along quite well.
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High-Rise is a compelling, modern take on De Sade, taking a look at the darker sides of a humanity with too little room and too much time. The prose reminded me of some great Sci-Fi Golden Age writing, descriptive without being flowery, chilling without gratuitous language. The author pulls off quite a feat in never once stooping to the level of his characters, and in doing so leaves one able to sympathize with even the most barbaric of them.
Though I enjoyed the novel, I feel it goes on a bit farther than it should. Essentially, it is a take on the old 'worldship' stories, modified for an era that does not dream of the stars, all of which that I've read have been in a novella length, and well-served for it. While Ballard tries to fill every page with worthwhile words, one can almost see him straining to keep the work at novel length, rather than taking the pay cut that comes with short fiction. And, truly, a few repetitive scenes do little to distract from the overall story, and readers will get their money's worth with High-Rise.
WARNING: dog lovers, this novel contains several scenes, including one quite pivotal one, of violence towards dogs. As previously noted, the prose never becomes grotesque, but still be warned.
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By A Customer on October 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
As unheimlich as it gets, High Rise is a story about people who lose their civilized selves in a violent, primitive orgy to ascend to the top of a culture entirely enclosed in a skyscraper. For some reason, it reminded me of the final scenes of The Wickerman movie, where no one remained to speak out against the uncontrolled barbarism of the community, there in a small village, here in a very elite group of condo dwellers. Of course, it's made clear that people are really violent, selfish brutes inside anyway; and any tear in the fabric of polite society will open us all to our evil selves. Not the most pleasant book to read in light of the year 2000 computer bug, but I found it very powerful reading.
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I read High-Rise after a friend mentioned it in a conversation about the movie Snowpiercer, suggesting similarities. (There were some!)

I hadn't read Ballard in years. I remembered loving Concrete Island and Crash. Running Wild, I did not like so much and High-Rise reminded me more of Running Wild. They're both stories where upper class Western humans are driven to extreme violence by their over-planned, over-coddling environments.

In both books we are expected to accept that these environments would cause this behavior, but without a lot of convincing proof. In High-Rise we must suspend disbelief that feuding neighbors would devolve into warring tribes. And, because the residents could leave the High-Rise at anytime, we must also suspend disbelief that they would choose this dangerous fight for survival over the comforts of their previous bourgeois lives.

For the first 50 pages or so Ballard mostly just alludes to events in the building that might cause this dystopian state. We have to guess at the specifics and I was left wondering if he was unable to come up with anything convincing and if this book was just a sketch of an idea, not yet filled in. Eventually he does deliver with specifics including disputes over the elevators and swimming pool and only then did the book pull me in.

High-Rise and Running Wild are both very short books and we don't have time to get to know the characters very deeply but that doesn't really matter because Ballard's fantasy is that everyone in these scenarios would react this way regardless of their particular emotional situations.
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