Book Review | High Rise by J.G. Ballard


Happy Sunday everyone!

I’ve been falling behind on my blogging again while life has kept me occupied. This review should have been posted a long time ago. Better late than never… I guess…


High Rise by J.G. Ballard


Within the walls of a high-tech forty-storey high-rise, the residents are hell-bent on an orgy of sex and destruction, answering to primal urges that their utopian surroundings can’t satisfy. The high-rise is a would-be paradise turned dystopia, ruled by intimidation and violence, and, as the residents organize themselves for war, floor against floor, no one wants it to stop …

High Rise is a dystopian novel, one that begins with the following sentence:

“Later as he sat on his balcony eating the dog , Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.”

Not only is it a brilliant and haunting first line, but it sets the stage perfectly for the story that follows. Reading quite like Great Gatsby meets Lord of the Flies, Ballard’s novel is one that explores a number of themes, from class division to survival of the fittest.

That in and of itself is not enough to make the book stand out. There have been numerous dystopian novels that cover the topics, but the way in which Ballard envisions the lifestyle of these isolated people brings about a far different conclusion than those that have preceded it. The structure of the plot is a thrilling one for it, at once building suspense while evoking disturbing images of people losing sense of their humanity.

The narrative itself is told through three perspectives. Each represents one of the three classes. Dr. Robert Laing is our middle class citizen, floating between the lesser off and the wealthy elite, a position that grows less tenable the further the state of the high rise deteriorates.

Richard Wilder, a documentary filmmaker, stands as the everyday man with a wife and two children. His journey through this book is especially grim, his descent into the madness of the world around him. A man on the bottom of society, he intends to climb quite literally to the top. He inhabits many of the story’s themes and epitomizes man’s search for self-made success.

Finally, Anthony Royal is the archetype for the elite, the architect of the High Rise. A man who seemingly has it all, his character is one of the more fascinating ones. His arc is a study of a fallen man who is holding on with every fiber of his being, afraid of the collapse of his world while simultaneously craving the adventure that awaits in the dark.

The only criticism I can bring to mind is in relation to the lack of female characters. That isn’t to say that there aren’t women in the novel, but their voices are highly stifled in comparison to the men and rarely given the chance to do much of anything. The real shame of it, is that a particular arc near the end gives some strength to the female voice, but its absence from the start does not allow for the same impact as it might otherwise have. It would have been interesting to have a female perspective to guide part of the narrative.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book quite like this one. It is an intriguing study of the human psyche. If you enjoy thought-provoking books and don’t mind the disturbing imagery of the degraded human spirit, you’ll enjoy this read for sure!



May inspiration flow like ink upon your quill,

Faith    quill-ink

6 thoughts on “Book Review | High Rise by J.G. Ballard

    1. Don’t let the cover throw you off. It’s only the movie edition (which I normally don’t go for…but it was the only one available). The original just has the picture of the High Rise on it.


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