High Rise Novel Review

Max Bowman, Writer

High Rise certainly is an enigmatic novel. It contains all the elements of a dystopian future, yet it simply takes place in a self-sustaining (at first) apartment building full of doctors and lawyers. Giving in to primitive impulses, the residents of the high rise slowly degenerate, and they lose any sense of civilization or logical thinking. All filters or restrictions on the residents crumble away as they give in to whatever impulse jumps into their mind; random acts of violence and physical assault happen sporadically. The standard of living reaches a point where the residents live in constant danger of each other. The only supply of nourishment turns into dog food and, eventually, the animals which the food once fed. Something that will surely drive people away from the book is, perhaps, the entire point of the book: All the residents have to do is walk out the front door. There is no existential force keeping them trapped in the building. No impending doom waiting for those who walk out the front door. The crux of the novel is the fact that those living there don’t want to leave.

The chaos of the ensuing events manages to avoid becoming too random and chaotic by following a simple plot structure, and focusing on three separate protagonists. The main character of the book is Dr. Robert Laing, a psychiatrist going through a midlife crisis, who decides to move into the high rise for a change of pace. The perspective of his character serves to show how the “average” resident adapts to the decaying rule of civilization. Another character is Anthony Royal, the architect of the building who, after seeing the failure it’s become, decides to revel in its tribal state and live out on the penthouse. The most interesting character though proves to be Richard Wilder, a  thuggish brute who lives on the bottom floor after being subjected to increasingly harsher conditions, sees it as his personal goal to reach the top and conquer the “mountain” and abandons his family to do so. This is a man with no moral values and each and every action he takes is to assert or flex his masculinity and proves to be the most interesting character compared to the tepid Dr. Laing and delusional Anthony Royal. The decision to switch perspectives between the characters who live at the bottom, middle and top floor greatly helps the reader get a full perspective of the setting they all live in. The reason this is necessary is because the path to tribal nature starts with a clash struggle between the top, middle, and bottom floors. Leading to varying states throughout the building.

The writing style of the book is reminiscent of the author F. Scott. Fitzgerald, specifically that of Great Gatsby. Every sentence is elegantly written and thought out, avoiding stream of conscious entirely. A downside to this however, is that it’s hard to just pick up and read, not even including its the gruesome subject matter that occurs later on; the writing requires a lot of concentration and it can be easy to get lost at some points. The book also happens to just sort of fizzle out. The story hits the ceiling of how far it can go around 30 pages before the book ends, leading to some repetition and the climax between Richard and Royal could be sumrised in a sentence, and even beaks one of the more interesting previously established rules. But really those are my only complaints. I enjoyed almost every single page of this book and loved the characters and world it built. It’s such an interesting premise that manages to go through with the potential and attach some interesting social commentary with it. I can’t recommend this book enough, I urge anyone who is even remotely interested to pick up and read it.