High Rise (1995) here gets another reissue, just three years after the perfectly fine Flamingo edition- the cover of this one doesn;t appeal very much! High Rise was the third part of what academics and Ballard-buffs like to call 'The Urban Disaster Trilogy'- coming after Crash & Concrete Island.
High Rise has one of the finest opening paragraphs I've read, straight into the dark stuff with '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'! As with many Ballard works- including the locale for the recent Super Cannes- Ballard shows a composite of society, within a society...& beneath that something dark and primal lurking- here there is a literal hegemony from top to bottom in the high rise block which has everything, from a bank to a swimming pool..
Ballard views a society that has closed itself off, and in turn sections of this society that have closed themselves off- one thinks of many things, from the infamous Kitty Genovese case to the LA Riots...This novel reacts to the so-called progression that began to surface in the 1970s- the abortive buildings now being torn down in places like Birmingham- & also taps into the spirit that would birth the yuppies in the 80s and the materialist species that followed in the late 1990s also. As with many Ballard works, there are those atypical Ballardian titles for chapters: The Drained Lake, The Vertical City, The Blood Garden...all roads leading to the sub/unconscious coming to the fore with 1984's autobiographical classic Empire of the Sun.
High Rise is a brief entertaining & horrifying read and remains one of Ballard's strongest novels which ranks well alongside such books as The Drowned World, The Atrocity Exhibition, Crash, Concrete Island, Vermillion Sands & Super Cannes.Personally, I feel it's the definitive Ballard novel & would be a much better place to start than with a book like Crash, which alienates as many as those who enjoy it (I fall into the latter group!). For anyone wanting to read Ballard for the first time I'd plump for this, or a short-story collection like The Voices of Time.