I’m looking forward to seeing the film now. How the heck did they adapt this? 3.5 stars.
The blurb: When a class war erupts inside a luxurious apartment block, modern elevators become violent battlegrounds and cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on “enemy” floors. In this visionary tale, human society slips into violent reverse as once-peaceful residents, driven by primal urges, re-create a world ruled by the laws of the jungle.
Well. That was weird.
I’ve been trying to trace the source of the deep sense of unease you get while reading High-Rise. Yes, most of the characters are insane, but I don’t think it’s that. I believe the pervading sense of odd comes from the disconnect between the third-person narrator’s incredibly detached, colourless tone and the bloody, grimy events described. However, we should be grateful for this narrative distance, because otherwise I think this book would be too disturbing to get through. What’s more, the tone becomes almost hypnotic, pulling you through a reading experience which becomes something like driving past a traffic accident: you don’t want to look, but you feel compelled to turn your head in the direction of the flashing lights.
I think this book has to be approached less as sci-fi/dystopia and more as an adult, fabular version of Lord of the Flies. Don’t go in looking for realism. As I’ve seen other reviewers comment, if the events of the High-Rise were to happen in real life, people would just move out of the building. Particularly residents with children. Sure, a few psychos would stay behind, but the majority would run for the hills.
It certainly contains lots of interesting ideas, most of which brought be back (once again) to Lord of the Flies: namely how thin the veneer of civilisation is and how quickly it can break down under pressure.
The story is told from the close third-person viewpoints of three different male residents of the high rise. I did wonder why we don’t get a female point of view, just for contrast. But, then again, given events later in the book (I’m trying really hard to avoid spoilers), perhaps the author is driving home a point by not giving us a female insight on events?
Finally, if you’re a dog lover and can’t bear reading of any harm whatsoever coming to them, avoid this book! I would argue the dogs in the building give as good as they get though…
Overall: I can’t say this is an “enjoyable” read. It’s more a creepy, uncomfortable experience. And if that’s your thing, I highly recommend it!
Claire Huston / Art and Soul