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High-Rise - J.G. Ballard "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." Quite an opening line, huh? Ballard hooked me within a matter of seconds. I loved High-Rise in all its 1975 record-players-and-high-speed-elevators-as-cutting-edge-technology glory.

There's no way Ballard didn't have [b:Lord of the Flies|7624|Lord of the Flies|William Golding|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327869409s/7624.jpg|2766512] in mind while writing High-Rise. He substitutes yuppies for plane-wrecked school children; an amenity-laden apartment complex for a tropical island. And then Ballard puts Golding to shame on the brutality scale. In the world of the high-rise: "sudden holocaust(s)", human sacrifice, and cannibalism happen; men rape and dominate women (till the covens form, at least); and residents torture, hunt, smother, kill, skewer, cook, and eat house pets. The behavior of Ballard's clannish adults makes Golding's tribalism look like, well, child's play. High-Rise argues that no community--regardless of how shiny, racially and professionally homogenous, or affluent it may be--is immune from civil war, collapse and decay. Civilization dangles by a thread, my friends.

I'm tired and unable to do High-Rise justice with this review. There's simply too much thought-provoking material. Ballard dabbles in social hierarchy, pop psychology, mythology, evolutionary biology, and architecture. For example, he captures class struggle perfectly in this description of Wilder's proletarian angst:
[Wilder] was constantly aware of the immense weight of concrete stacked above him, and the sense that his body was the focus of the lines of force running through the building, almost as if [architect and penthouse resident] Anthony Royal had deliberately designed his body to be held within their grip.

There's monarch vs. prole here, oppressive order vs. rewilding/chaos. Wilder's a liberator from social convention, a genital-exposing freedom fighter. (I couldn't get Patrick Warburton's/Putty from Seinfeld's image out of my head whenever Wilder entered a scene.) So good!

When even the most unfair and unequal social order disappears, what's left? Is true freedom possible only in the absence of social convention? What ethical and legal systems suit anarchy? Is some form of social hierarchy inevitable? These are only a few of the big questions stemming from this uncomfortable, terrific read. Highly recommended!