Saturday, March 19, 2016

High-Rise by J.G. Ballard

(pb; 1975)

From the back cover:

"Within the walls of an elegant forty-story tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on 'enemy' floors, and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for technological mayhem. In this visionary tale, human society slips into violent reverse as once-peaceful residents, driven by primal urges, re-create a world ruled by the laws of the jungle."


Review:

High-Rise is a timely, could-be-mistaken-for-prescient novel whose tone of almost-antiseptic, sociological distance consistently maintains a fine balance of  showing gradual, deteriorating civility  while simultaneously mimicking the form of an effectively paced thriller. Its multiple characters, who get varying amounts of 'air time,' are well-sketched out and their motives are understandable and clear, even when their behavior seems quirky and inconsistent -- that is, after all, an aspect of individuals, of human nature.

Fans of William Golding's Lord of the Flies and Ballard's Crash may well appreciate High-Rise's subtle underlying and black-hearted mirth even as the tenants enact escalating savagery and other tribal-minded displays. Those who like their thrills light-hearted and optimistic should avoid this book (as well as the movie) -- for them it may feel like an insufferably long nightmare of pointless nihilism.

This is a great book, one that may resonate well with those who are fascinated by (and sometimes horrified by) the darker corners of human nature and society, as well as tightly-written prose penned by a forward-looking wordsmith.

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The resulting film is scheduled for stateside release on April 28, 2016. Ben Wheatley directed the film, from Amy Jump's screenplay.

Tom Hiddleston played Laing. Jeremy Irons played Royal. Sienna Miller played Charlotte. Luke Evans played Wilder. Elisabeth Moss played Helen. James Purefoy played Pangbourne. Keeley Hawes played Ann. Peter Ferdinando played Cosgrove.



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