High-Rise by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A slim book, and another of Ballard’s meditations on a theme - this one concerns the breakdowns in society and/or technology due to an outside source; in this case the societal microcosm of the high-rise apartment building. Like much of Ballard’s ‘science fiction’ this isn’t especially concerned with plot or character in the conventional sense - his concerns are more with psychology and society - so if you’re expecting or demanding that, you will be disappointed.
It’s worth noting that the various strata of social class contained within the titular high-rise - described specifically with upper/lower class connotations in the text - are all, even by modern standards, pitched rather high. There is no real working class in this building, and even the lowest of the low hold the sorts of jobs and behave exactly as the middle classes they really are. Rather than commenting on society as a whole, Ballard is restricting himself to the upper middle and upper classes for his commentary. To this end, there is a very telling comment in the book: that taking possession and status from the working class, who work for what they have, has less catastrophic effect, as they will work again to achieve their position; conversely, take anything from the ruling class, who are born into wealth and privilege, and they react adversely, often at the expense of those beneath them - those who have not worked for what they have cannot imagine working to regain it, so they exercise their power to abuse. This is even more a truism today than it was when Ballard wrote it, almost forty years ago.
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