Dystopian fiction fascinates me. Whenever I read a dystopian novel, I cannot help but wonder how far our society is away from something like that happening. The thing is, I am not sure that we are very far away from many of these situations. For example, while The Hunger Games might seem extreme, we do watch a lot of reality television for entertainment, including Survivor where people are starving and often injure themselves! That, however, is a longer topic for another post and not this one.
For now, I want to discuss my take on High Rise by J.G. Ballard. I will provide full disclosure here, in that I did not hear about this book until I found out they were making it into a movie and that Tom Hiddleston would be starring. I tend to watch most of the works by my favourite actors and actresses, so I figured this one would make it. Of course, with my rule, I had to read the book before I would be able to see the movie.
So what is this particular dystopian novel about?
Well, it is about a high-rise apartment. However, it is not your typical high-rise apartment. This one has just about everything a person would need: a supermarket, school, swimming pools, and more. While something like that sounds like a great place to live, stop and think for a second. They are making it so it is unnecessary to leave. However, when it is impossible leave, there is also an inordinate amount of control. The residents are isolated from the rest of the population and that paves the way for the owners of that building to create a chaotic closed environment. High Rise takes us through the degeneration of that society.
I love the premise behind this book. It makes me wonder whether or not our society would actually descend in this manner. Honestly, I do not think that it would be exact, but I would not be surprised if things did fall in a similar way.
Unfortunately, I did not feel a “magic” or “fascination” when reading this book. The story itself was well written, but once again I find something lacking in the book. I did not find myself attached to any character or outcome…nothing. The book had the perfect set-up, but even then I did not feel it. That said, however, I do believe that others who enjoy dystopian fiction would love this book given its quality writing and premise.
I do have one suggestion regarding this book that I think would have made me connect with it more. The book focuses on three men (one for each “class” after the breakdown) and we get insight into each of their perspectives throughout the story. However, I wish that we also got some more of the women’s perspective. What were they thinking? Was it similar to the men? Was it entirely different? I really wish I could have seen into their minds during the breakdown, especially knowing the “resolution” at the end of the book. I wonder if it would change anyone’s opinions on the classes.
Even though I felt disconnected when reading this book, if you like dystopian fiction I would still try it. After all, everyone has different tastes and this book is well written.
Title: High Rise
Author: J.G. Ballard
Publisher: Jonathan Cape (parent company is Random House, according to research)