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High Rise

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  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


Biography Wikipedia


For the film adaption, see High Rise (film). For other uses, see High Rise (disambiguation).

High Rise is a 1975 novel by J. G. Ballard. It takes place in an ultra-modern, luxury high-rise building.

Plot summary[edit]

The building seems to give its well-established tenants all the conveniences and commodities that modern life has to offer: swimming pools, its own school, a supermarket, high-speed elevators. But at the same time, the building seems to be designed to isolate the occupants from the larger world outside, allowing for the possibility to create their own closed environment.

Life in the high-rise begins to degenerate quickly, as minor power failures and petty annoyances over neighbours escalate into an orgy of violence. The high-rise occupants divide themselves into the classic three groups of Western society: the lower, middle, and upper class, but here the terms are literal, as the lower class are those living on the lowest floors of the building, the middle class in the centre, and the upper class at the most luxurious apartments on the upper floors.

Soon, skirmishes are being fought throughout the building, as floors try to claim elevators and hold them for their own, groups gather to defend their rights to the swimming pools, and party-goers attack "enemy floors" to raid and vandalize them. It does not take long for the occupants of the entire building to abandon all social restraints, and give in to their most primal urges. The tenants completely shut out the outside world, content with their new life in the high-rise; people abandon their work and family and stay indoors permanently, losing their sense of time. Even as hunger starts to set in, many of the characters in the novel still seem to be enjoying themselves, as the building allows them a chance to break free from the social restrictions of modern society and toy with their own dark urges and desires. And as bodies begin to pile up and the commodities of the high-rise break down, no one considers alerting the authorities.

The tenants of the high-rise abandon all notions of moral and social etiquette, as their environment gives way to a hunter/gatherer culture, where humans gather together in small clans, claim food sources from where they can (including the many dogs in the building, and eventually even the other tenants), and every stranger is met with extreme violence.

As he did in Concrete Island and Crash, Ballard here offers a vision of how modern life in an urban landscape and the advances of technology could warp the human psyche in hitherto unexplored ways.


The book has been cited as an influence upon the Doctor Who serial Paradise Towers.

Hawkwind used the book as the basis for a song of the same name on their 1979 album PXR5.

^ Newman, Kim (2009). "Doctor Who: Paradise Towers (1987)". The Kim Newman Archive. Retrieved 15 December 2014. ^ Dowling, Stephen (20 April 2009). "What pop music tells us about JG Ballard". BBC News (London: BBC). Retrieved 15 December 2014. 

Film adaptation[edit]

For over 30 years, British producer Jeremy Thomas has wanted to do a film version of the book. It was nearly made in the late 1970s, with Nicolas Roeg directing from a script by Paul Mayersberg. However, financing fell through and Roeg and Thomas did Bad Timing instead, and Thomas later went on to adapt Ballard's Crash for the screen with director David Cronenberg. In recent times Thomas has revisited High-Rise, and the project has been in development with Canadian filmmaker Vincenzo Natali attached to write and direct.

In August 2013, the website ScreenDaily reported that Ben Wheatley would begin shooting an film adaptation in 2014, from a script by screenwriter Amy Jump. On 5 February 2014, it was announced that Tom Hiddleston will star in the adaptation.

^ Wiseman, Andreas (29 August 2013). "Ben Wheatley to direct JG Ballard’s High Rise for RPC". Screen Daily. Retrieved 15 December 2014. ^ Woerner, Meredith (5 February 2014). "Tom Hiddleston will star in the movie adaptation of High Rise!". io9. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
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