High-Rise by J.G. Ballard

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

This was good. Not great, but good.

The plot: the yuppie universe implodes.

The setting: a monstrous apartment tower that immediately brings to mind Le Corbusier’s plan for central Paris. (”Eighteen, sixty-story cruciform towers” each of them home to 40,000 inhabitants. Alain de Botton talks about it in his wonderful book “The Architecture of Happiness“, which I highly recommend.)

Ballard has a wonderful eye for little details of behavior and personality; however, the weakness of the book, I feel, is in the lack of character arcs. People may devolve, but they do not change — their essential personality merely regresses to its crudest form. So, instead of an arc, we have a straight line into a brick wall. I think you have to accept the fact that this is not a realistic novel about believable characters in a particular situation; it’s bigger in scope than that, more parable-like.

There are scenes in this book that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Many of them. Brutally visceral and full of dark truths, they have this epic, symbolic quality to them without straining for it. Worth reading.

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