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Summary

From the author of the Sunday Times best seller Cocaine Nights comes an unnerving tale of life in a modern tower block running out of control.

Within the concealing walls of an elegant forty-storey tower block, the affluent tenants are hell-bent on an orgy of destruction. Cocktail parties degenerate into marauding attacks on "enemy" floors and the once-luxurious amenities become an arena for riots and technological mayhem.

In this visionary tale of urban disillusionment from the renowned author of Crash and Cocaine Nights, society slips into a violent reverse as the isolated inhabitants of the high-rise, driven by primal urges, recreate a dystopian world ruled by the laws of the jungle.

The audiobook of High Rise arrives as interest in the book and J.G. Ballard’s work reaches a new peak. The film adaptation of High Rise, directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List, Sightseers) will be released in September 2015, starring Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss.

Tom Hiddleston, who is known to millions worldwide for his role as the evil god Loki in the blockbuster Thor and Avengers movies, has lent his voice to this first UK audiobook adaptation of High Rise, which was published in 1975.

J. G. Ballard was born in 1930 in Shanghai, where his father was a businessman. After internment in a civilian prison camp, he and his family returned to England in 1946. He published his first novel, The Drowned World, in 1961. His 1984 bestseller Empire of the Sun won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It was later filmed by Steven Spielberg. His memoir, Miracles of Life, was published in 2008. J. G. Ballard died in 2009.

©1975 J. G. Ballard (P)2015 Audible, Ltd

Critic reviews

"Ballard’s finest novel.... A triumph” ( The Times)
"Another eerie glimpse into the future. A fast-moving, spine-tingling fable of the concrete jungle.” ( Daily Express)
“A gripping read, particularly if you like your thrills chilly, bloody and with claims to social relevance.” ( Time Out)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Disturbing Fable

High-Rise is one of the best books by J. G. Ballard, one of the most distinctive and influential writers of the last fifty years. A sort of Lord of the Flies with grown ups it tells of how a luxurious apartment building for affluent professionals descends into savagery as their primal urges overwhelm their veneer of civilization. An important book and well worth experiencing.
My only quibble is the narrator. Tom Hiddleston is a fine actor, a well-known name and the obvious choice as he plays the lead in the forthcoming feature film directed by Ben Wheatley. But I have been slightly spoiled by hearing Sean Barrett and William Gaminara read other works by Ballard for Audible and they are both outstanding interpreters of Ballard and while Hiddleston does a very good job as reader a screen actor turning his hand to reading an audiobook isn't quite as polished as those experts.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fantastic

Great book by Ballard
Great insight into the heart of darkness lurking under our civilisation but also Ballard playing out again in another guise his view of humanity after living through the the Second World War has it affected life in Shanghai as a boy.

Hiddleston is a great narrator

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Drama and Dystopia

What made the experience of listening to High-Rise the most enjoyable?

It's really a combination of Tom Hiddleston's narration and the story itself. J G Ballard's work, I believe, really lends itself to audio as he creates such incredible worlds that you can really imagine. You could just close your eyes and be there in the chaos and tension of the High Rise. To really appreciate this text in particular I think you need to be able to completely lose yourself in it and picture it and so I found it very difficult to read on my commute- this turned out to be the perfect solution.

What was one of the most memorable moments of High-Rise?

I think one of the most memorable moments is when Dr Laing attends Royal's party for the first time. Invited only to be humiliated, shunned and then beaten down - a reminder of his standing in the High Rise- which in itself physically depicts social standing floor by floor, class by class. Whilst many are actively trying to improve their status at this point in the book, Laing does not appear to the reader to be one of them, so to see him punished and ostracized in this manner really builds a connection to him. High Rise is a bizarre and disturbing tale which breaks down characters to the bare bones of animal instinct and without moments like this we would lose that connection and understanding of them.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

"Let the psychotics take over. They alone understood what was happening."I think the end of the book is probably my favourite. It has all come around full circle (as the book begins at the end, so to speak) and with the completion of the neighbouring building it seems only apt that this is where we leave them. It is a moment of reflection for Laing and indeed for the reader, where you sit back and wonder how on earth it ended up that way but also, somehow, how it could've gone any other way.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Whilst I could certainly listen to this book all in one sitting (because I have read it multiple times, seen the film and listened through this audiobook twice) I think to truly absorb the text and the meanings behind Ballard's work it would need a couple of breaks. Also it's pretty intense so you may well want to abandon it and clear your head at times just to give yourself a break!

Any additional comments?

I would love to hear Tom Hiddleston narrate more work- if he wasn't so nice to look at I'd suggest this could be his calling!

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Typical Ballard

I should say from the outset that I haven't read Ballard chronologically, but I appreciate that this is quite an early response to the skyscraper phenomenon that informed social housing in the 1970s and might tell us a lot about why vertical living isn't doing urban communities any good. The trouble with this book is that its argument is the same that informs earlier works such as The Drowned World and later works (Crash, Millennium People, Super Cannes): bourgeois mores are a superficial veneer beneath which lurk much more primal needs and desires that any deterioration of circumstances brings to the surface. Gender roles revert under pressure to something approaching the jungle law. Class is ingrained and will always re-establish itself after some pseudo-egalitarian vacuum. Our dependence on machines, technology and concrete blunts our skills and perception until a crisis occurs. We are a naturally violent species. and the protagonist is the same protagonist in most Ballard narratives.
No doubt this is well-written, sharply observed, expertly paced, but I have read this before; only the setting was different.
It is very interesting though, from the point of view of our digital age, that something as banal as an elevator in a high-rise building could become the lynchpin of human resourcefulness and survival. We are now so much more gadget-dependent that Ballard's dystopian vision seems a little over-anxious and a little quaint. We have not (yet) collapsed into a primeval swamp of ineptitude or descended into some existential violence between ghetto-ised tribes of techno-societies. Very little is written now about anxieties surrounding technologies because writers fear the swift obsolescence of their plot devices (Eggers' The Circle about the googlification of the world isn't lukewarm because of his use of technology but because of limp characterisation and clumsy plotting).
I think Ballard's pessimism was well-placed, though. We are violent; that violence does not need to manifest itself in murder and mayhem and the raiding of food shelves in supermarkets. It is now institutionalised in the so-called free market and produces urban social engineering: the rich build, buy, renovate, move in (or not) and push the poor out into peripheral ghettos. No bones broken...

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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A highly disturbing vision

I bought this in anticipation of Ben Wheatley's forthcoming film version. Was delighted to find that Tom Hiddleston was the narrator and, given he can seemingly do no wrong, I was not surprised by the strength of his performance. Now I'm even more excited for the film. Highly recommended.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Kaggy
  • United Kingdom
  • 12-11-15

Lord of the Flies but with adults

This story taps into the notion that any attempt to engineer lives and build a model community is fraught with problems. The characters occupy a beautiful sky-rise building equipped with swimming pools, shops and everything they need to lead a gracious and happy existence. Their lives should be perfect but sadly humans simply cannot help themselves. It seems that even when a person is highly educated and wealthy, the primitive urges and resentments are always just bubbling under the surface and ready to explode at the slightest provocation. Despite its extreme violence there is nothing in this book that is beyond recognition and that is why it is such an effective and believable nightmare. Let’s face it, we have all heard a childless person expressing their dislike of children, parents resenting the lack of tolerance of their darling offspring and the squabbles between pet and non-pet owners when a four legged friend strays onto another’s property. Most of this is mundane and forgettable, but occasionally darker events can occur.

This is a story about territory and how our desire to protect it can lead to madness, chaos and the ultimate destruction of the very thing we are trying to guard. It is a great listen, beautifully read by Tom Hiddleston, (who is starring in the up and coming film). If you have just paid a deposit on that dream pad in Canary Wharf, you might want to re-consider after listening to this.

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Si
  • UK
  • 13-12-15

Awful

This book reads like an exercise for a sixth form psychology class, or an abstract of a Big Brother reality-type show. The events are unconnected and absurd, the characters are nothing more than place-holders to illustrate the author's concept of human behaviour and the whole thing is delivered in broad exposition about as dull as a 1970s textbook. I was prompted to read the novel having heard Ben Wheatley has adapted it to film; I wish I hadn't bothered.

18 of 26 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Difficult to commit to

I didn't finish the book finding it difficult to become involved in. The characters seemed too unreal a bit like an urban Lord of the Flies

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Confused!

I didn't enjoy the story, which didn't really hold my attention. The pacing was poor and I'm not sure if this was meant to be a metaphor for something that floated above my head.

Whilst the performance wasn't horrible, there was little attempt to differentiate between characters using various voices.

Not recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Utterly disappointing and difficult to finish!

Tom H. read the book beautifully, so this is not a review of his performance rather the actual book.

The book, as many other readers have pointed out, has an interesting premise - people living in a high rise divided into different social strata, slowly losing their civility in isolation. However, the execution was so poor that I really struggled finishing it.
First, the book does not seem to have a story - everything seems to be a repetition of how dilapidated the building is and how much debris there is and how violent everyone is. Ok, people lose their crap in this building, we get it. So what? What happens then?
Characters - all characters were so poorly executed that they did not feel real and it was very hard to empathize with any of them or actually remember who did what and when. Random people are mentioned here and there but they don’t seem to bring anything to the story.
What annoyed me the most is that almost 100% all women in the story were referred to as the wife of this and that professional man, for instance, the wife of he jeweller, the wife of the accountant. I can live with this belittlement of women had it been important to the story. But, it wasn’t. It absolutely did nothing for the story itself.
Overall, I can persevere with quite a wide range of styles and stories and dystopian novels are one of my favorite. This collection of words and imagery is so random, chaotic and I can’t accept if someone says “well, maybe that was the point all along”. No, even desired chaos in literature has to be delivered in a compelling way, make people transcend reality and immerse themselves in that of the author. All this one did was made me stop my audible every 5 min to quickly browse something completely unrelated or double check my messages, i.e. it made me procrastinate!!! Absolutely hated it!!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful