"A low crime-rate doctor," she told him amiably, "is a sure sign of social deprivation."
Anthony Royal built the Titanic of skyscrapers.
A state of the art, megalithic structure suitable for 2,000 tenants. It is a self-contained environment with everything a tenant would need such as shopping or exercise or even schools for their kids. The people the building attracts are white collar, well educated, professionals. The apartments sell out quickly and as everyone start to settle into their new lives glitches start to occur. Despite the developing problems entire floor parties are standard weekend entertainment. A bottle drops from a higher floor and shatters on Dr. Robert Laing's balcony and it is equivalent to the first canon fired on Fort Sumter.
As the week continues more bottles are dropped and other assorted trash begins to fall from the sky. A rich jeweler plummets from his upper level apartment onto the roof of a car. Resentment is building between levels. The perceived richest people, where Anthony Royal resides, are on the upper levels. The middle level people, where Dr. Robert Laing reside, are resentful of the upper levels, but also becoming more disdainful of the lower levels. Richard Wilder, a man working on a documentary about human behavior, lives in the lower levels. The trash is accumulating on the ground floor, the trash chutes become jammed and more and more trash is being hoisted over the side of the building creating an intolerable situation for the lower tenants.
Electricity winks out leaving entire floors without power for days at a time. "Five floors were without electricity. At night the dark bands stretched across the face of the high-rise like dead strata in a fading brain."
The air condition goes out and when it does come back on it only trickles out for a few minutes before failing again. The lower levels bear the worst of the malfunctions with the upper levels remaining relatively unaffected. Resentments build and as tenants become more and more irritated the civilized structure of the building starts to erode.
This is the point of the novel when J.G. Ballard asks the reader to suspend belief. Yes, he is creepy; and yes, he has a pink beach ball; and yes, he wants to play with your mind.
The three levels of the building go to war with each other. People are beaten. Women are raped. Graffiti is sprayed on the walls. The building breaks down into tribal units with lower levels trying to conquer and take over higher levels of the building. "Not for the fist time Laing reflected that he and his neighbors were eager for trouble as the most effective means of enlarging their sex lives.
The problem I have is that the outside world is perfectly normal. Civilization is existing just fine. There is no cataclysmic event that has ruptured the natural order of things. To return to the world of order is as simple as leaving the building. These are highly educated people who have benefited greatly from living in a society that allows them to make money using their brains. I found it hard to believe that these people would so easily transition to a tribal warfare society. "They discussed the latest ruses for obtaining food and women, for defending the upper floors against marauders, their plans for alliance and betrayal. Now the new order had emerged, in which all life within the high-rise revolved around three obsessions-security, food and sex."
This is the adults gone wild version of [b:Lord of the Flies|7624|Lord of the Flies|William Golding|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327869409s/7624.jpg|2766512]. I didn't like Lord of the Flies
so maybe I just don't like books about mob culture. Ballard didn't sell me on this concept, not that I don't believe that intelligent, well educated people are incapable of marinating in the swamp juices of the lizard brain, but I didn't feel it would happen under the circumstances that Ballard presented. I am still curious to explore more in Ballard's world and I look forward to reading more of his work. I'll leave you with some parting thoughts from Doctor Laing."Would he soon be the last person alive in the high-rise? He thought of himself in this enormous building, free to roam its floors and concrete galleries, to climb its silent elevator shafts, to sit by himself in turn on every one of its thousand balconies. This dream, longed for since his arrival at the high-rise, suddenly unnerved him, almost as if, at last alone here, he had heard footsteps in the next room and come face to face with himself."