Warning. This book is not for the faint of heart! No seriously, don’t read this book if you have a weak constitution or are easily disturbed.
Last month I was killing some time on Youtube and came across a trailer for a new Tom Hiddlestone film called High Rise. It looked good, a mix of Orwell and Huxley with a bit of gratuitous nudity thrown in for good measure. I decided to look out for it when it came out in the cinema and then moved on to watching people fall off trampolines.
Last week I headed to my nearest bookshop with my paycheck burning in my pocket and started choosing my entertainment for the next couple of weeks. “High Rise” was one of these purchases and I’ll fully admit that the movie based cover was a large part of the decision to buy. After all, if I didn’t read it before seeing the film, how could I feel superior to everyone else when they changed something.
High rise tells the story of an apartment block outside of London. 2000 people live together on 40 floors. The higher up the building you go the more luxurious and decadent the lifestyle. Our story focuses on the lives of three residents. Richard Wilder, a resident of the 2nd floor, Robert Laing, A doctor living on the 25th floor and the buildings Architect, Anthony Royal, who owns the penthouse apartment. Through their eyes we see life in the block before and during the complete chaos that befalls the residents.
As with reviews I’ve written in the past I don’t want to go into too much detail. The demented spiral towards chaos that this book takes you on is far too enjoyable for me to spoil for potential readers. All I’ll say is that as soon as I get home tonight I’ll be vigorously cleaning my flat.
There’s something about this book that makes you cling to the ideas of cleanliness and wide open spaces. This is probably due to the filthy and claustrophobic feeling that permeates the second half of story. This isn’t something you read to enjoy things and forget about troubles for a while. If reading is pure escapism then this novel is a portal to a different kind of hell. Please note that if you want feel good factor I can suggest a number of great books that will fill you up with warmth and fuzziness. This isn’t one of those books. The calm rational thought process that the characters go through is one that will leave you feeling cold, slightly clammy and thoroughly uncomfortable. The fact that the characters are not only unlikable but also totally unrelatable will make this a very alien read.
But, this is an amazing book and one I think that people should read. Over the last few years we have repeatedly seen cases of mass hysteria and mob culture spilling out of control and causing fairly horrific consequences. This book distils those feelings and shares them out between the 2000 residents of the tower block. It is an amazing representation of what happens when antagonistic behaviour and class grudges are allowed to go unchecked. The first quarter of the book could easily be written in social media posts and the message would still have the same impact. You could try it with the rest of the novel but I don’t think people would be impressed with “DR Robert Laing is – Eating Alsatian for dinner, nom nom nom”.
So who should read this book? Any fans of Huxley and Orwell will love this book. If you are a fan of psychology then I’d definitely give it a go. It’s difficult to compare this to anything else to be honest. I’ve never really read anything quite like it so matching it into other categories of literature is incredibly difficult. It has elements of Philip K Dick and John Wyndham while having something fairly Irvine Welsh to it at the same time. That being said, it’s just over 200 pages so if you’ve got a weekend free or have a holiday coming up and want something totally different to take with you, then give this a go.