It's hard to know what to write about High-Rise; to know how I feel about it. It is the third JG Ballard novel I've read and each has left me with a strange, fascinated detachment. They are not books that I cherish in any kind of personal way, nor do I long to read any of them again. However, the stories fascinate me. The angle (or perspective or slant) with which Ballard looks at life is one which I find impressive albeit difficult to de-code.
A clever and perhaps crucial ruse of the book is that the opening sentence provides a tantalising clue as to what will later occur. From that moment forth, I often found myself untangling imaginary scenarios in my mind as to the circumstances that could have caused such an endgame.
For me, High-Rise is a cautionary, futuristic tale that uses a megapolis middle class housing estate - 'the high-rise' - to pick, prod and poke at a very personal and intimate humanity composite. The book is widely regarded as a comment on or study of mass, or group, behaviour in constrained and largely inhospitable environments. However, I found the most interesting aspect of the book to be that which dwelled upon the mental processes and anxieties of the individual high-rise residents; their personal challenges and motivations. Whilst High-Rise is not 'truth' but a construct, an allegory, perhaps, I found a desire to imagine how one's formative relationships and real-word structure are brought to bear in adult life. In the same way, it is the individual's relationship to the high-rise, the bricks and mortar, that I felt excited to question. Since the three principle characters (Laing, Royal and Wilder) are male - as was the author - I was fascinated at what seemed to be a wholly masculine mental and physical confrontation with the high-rise. The female characters are all largely framed through the gaze of one of the aforementioned men (as are most characters male or female) and this, I felt, was a slight shame.
The prolonged saga of the book served sharply to remind me just how molly-coddled we have become behind the cloak of political correctness. What would people do and say if they could really do and say as they pleased? However, it is the high-rise as a towering metaphor for the depths and crevices of the individual psyche, and the war that wages on the individual, that I found most intriguing.
High-Rise by JG Ballard is published by 4th Estate.