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Book review of High Rise

After reading Crash and being very impressed with its evocative sexual images I decided to check out some more Ballard and read High Rise. I needed to do a book review at uni so I reviewed it since it was the last book I had read.

J G Ballard is an author whose writing has proved so distinctive it has resulted in the adjective ‘Ballardian’ being coined in his honour. One novel more than any other encapsulates the themes and motifs that the term Ballardian expresses; this is ‘High Rise’. The novel features one of his most glaring examples of the dystopian urban landscape he was so renowned for portraying, in the form of its concrete setting of the high rise. As well as the dystopian nightmare environment providing the reader with the perfect Ballardian setting, the novel also shows his preoccupation with the fragility of modern society and the influence technology has on mankind.
Within the luxury self contained apartment complex that the novel is set and some thousand people live in a microcosm of affluence, three main characters are followed. These are introverted Dr Robert Laing, who works in a nearby medical school, macho TV journalist Richard Wilder and frail Antony Royal architect of the complex. Ballard is scarce in physical character description, but what he lacks in fleshing out these people physically he makes up for by delving the reader into their fractured psyches. All three characters and the other people in the high rise seem to have everything they could ever want at their fingertips. The complex boasts its own supermarket, hair salon, squash courts, restaurants and has two large swimming pools to enjoy. The tenants only have to leave to go to work, everything is there they need. The complex starts off well enough as the last few people move in; the social experiment seems to work. People enjoy the facilities, go to work and live out both normal family and self-contained existences. But soon it is clear that something is not right within the buildings walls, wild parties spill out from individual apartments to balconies where bottles are hurled onto the cars of tenants below. Then the parties which have become louder and more aggressive now start to encroach into the hallways and stairwells. Finally a state of anarchy ensues and random acts of violence against tenants and their pets becomes an everyday scene. What results is the destruction of the high rise itself and the systematic breakdown of the society inside, with the creation of rival gangs on different floors pitted against each other and fighting for survival. Elevators are stopped, electricity is cut out and stairwells are barricaded with rubbish until even those that can still get out can’t bring themselves to leave the excitement of the war they have created amongst themselves.
This scenario might all seem a bit unbelievable and overdramatic to some but I think anyone thinking this for more than a few minutes whilst reading is missing the point. In fact the cold matter of fact way in which Ballard writes displays a shocking sense of truth. As a reader you don’t question the motives of the characters and how its utterly ridiculous middle class business men and women would abandon all their common sense to act like a primitive tribal entity, but of course in the end it is an apocalyptic tale. People in the complex kill each other, abandon their loved ones, eat their own animals and exhaust the supplies they have. In the end of the novel two of the main characters are close to insane and starved, and another is dead. The morals are clear in ‘High Rise’ a society of consumer culture and mass media is a damaging force and that for all our technological breakthroughs and modern living we are still animals driven by primitive desires.
Of all of Ballard’s post- apocalyptic science fiction this is perhaps one of his most accessible and believable tales. Although his novel ‘Crash’ is just as powerful ‘High Rise’ is a less overtly violent and sexual novel. But this doesn’t mean that it lacks either of this, violent and sexual imagery is still present in quite a graphic way but it is defiantly more restrained and subtle. In this respect I don’t think it shares the power of revulsion that ‘Crash’ leads to. Another strong point of the novel is that it is so fast paced, which makes the change in the complex all the more startling and unexpected. In less than 200 pages characters go from having everything and being happy to destroying the world around them. With all the events of recent years concerning urban violence- such as the summer riots in 2011 in the UK it’s clear that a novel such as this is still powerful over 30 years on.

Writer's Block: Love is in the Air

Describe the perfect date.

It would be a trip to the cinema then a nice dinner in an Italian or Thai place.

Fav new albums

Tori Amos- Night of Hunter- ****
Brett Anderson- Black Rainbows- *****
Gary Numan- Dead son Rising- ****


This was out of the blue

So I've met a guy on match.com that lives quite near to me and I've been out with him three times now and I can honestly say I have never clicked so well with a guy, its like I've known him ages. It does also help that he's 6'4, really skinny and generally cute as hell :) So right now watch this space...

Free time WOW

Yes free time! and no more assignments and no uni till the 31st. I've been living at a mates for a few days, I say living because I always do this to her- plan to stay a night and end up still here 3 days later lol. But ohwell she loves me.

Going back Thursday so I can say I've been to the gym this week I will also try to go Friday and Sunday. Seeing another friend Tuesday to go swimming which will be super embarrasing but ohwell got to start sometime.

I've got the end of Irvine Welsh's Porno to read and I've got to get through a load of films like 2 days in the valley, Soilder of Orange and The Crazies, Agitator and still got fucking X files to watch.

I've really got to get into a routine of watching everything I buy straight away and not just letting stuff mount up and buy more.
Trying to get positive in light of all the shit that happened last year at the moment. One last assessment to complete this month which I'm doing tomorrow & giving in Monday. Then I will have 2 weeks of free time to enjoy before starting back at uni on the 31st, this might mean I can actualy get round to watching some movies I keep buying. Just started the gym & managed to go 3 times this week before falling ill with a kidney infection (shit like this keeps happeneing) so I had today off work to read a book to help with my genre essay.

Managed to get through 'Twin Peaks' finaly because I had to keep waiting for mum to watch it with me, oh how I love Lynch. Just saw 'The girl that played with fire' & although I did enjoy it & the sex scene was pretty hot it wasn't as gripping as the other so I hope the last film will impress me as much as the first, I'm certainly not watching the re-make when its out & I must get round to reading the novels.

I'm so looking forward to the next season of Justified its unreal I just hope we get it in the UK quick!
Had to have Blizzard put down today, not happy.

Sep. 21st, 2010

Things arent going great lately & since I never really post much on here or keep a proper paper diary I feel as if everything is being bottled up. Which for me never helps because I'm a very self destructive person that often gets too caught up in my own thoughts.
I was looking forward to going back to uni but now my modules seem to have somehow got screwed up so I'm unsure as to what I'm doing which is never a good thing for me I fear change anyway so this is not helping matters. A guy I broke up with because I basicly didn't feel as strongly as he did about me is going to be back there and he wont even speak to me on friendly terms now even though I ended things as nicely as I could & expressed a desire to remain friends. Hes hooked up with someone else now in the same film class as me & now wont answer txts or fb posts that are little more than friendly small talk about the holidays and uni & the like. I'm going to feel really isolated when I go back because everyone else I was vaguely friendly with he knows so I'm paranoid they will all hang out with him & exclude me especially since a few seem to think I'm a bitch for ending things when they don't know the whole story why I did. Maybe hes been lying about me to them I don't know, he seems to crave appreciation & comfort so I wouldn't put it past him.
My dogs got cancer & is going to be put down once I get my student loan through. This is what is eating away at me the most I can't imagine her not being in my life but I know its the best thing to do, she wasn't too bad for the first month we were told but now its clear she is in pain & distress. It is therefore vital I get my loan through as me & my parents are going to find it hard otherwise to come up with the money, so I'm more worried to death than usual about it getting through.
Little things going wrong that wouldn't usually bother me do now constantly, stupid things like making small mistakes at work, thinking I've upset anyone by my words or actions, trying to bake a cake & ruining it, being late for stuff etc its just really starting to get me down. Only seeing my best friend seems to be making me happy at the moment, I hope things get better soon.

Currently watching

Just brought the Sheild 1-7 boxset and just got off the first season. I am fucking loving it, gotta love Shane!

Also got the whole X-Files collection last xmas and still getting through those still only on season four but you can kind of drop those and go back to them I guess. I also need to finish watching The Stand parts 3 and 4 with my mum at some point.


Wrote a whole bunch of crap last night for the first time in ages and it didn't matter that most of it was crap it was just a relief I was actually writing again. Seems like forever since I last wrote a poem.

Only thing really salvageable was this:

His words pierce through my skin
Blood, dried bones
Wicked red sun
Visions of hell
Brought forth by him
I’d love to stick around
But hard times
Have beaten down
Left ache & pain
Where my hands are bound
To the spiral staircase
The world spins
With every step
& breath I take
Now free and safe from you

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February 2012


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