High Rise


– Author: J.G. Ballard
– Title: High Rise
– Publish Date: 1975
– Genre: Dystopian Fiction
– Page Length: 208

High Rise, written by J.G. Ballard and published in 1975, is a dystopian novel that explores the disintegration of social order within a prestigious high-rise apartment building. Spanning over three chapters, this book delves into the lives of the residents as they descend into chaos and savagery, highlighting the darker side of human nature.

**Chapter 1: Lower Floors**

The story begins on the lower floors of the luxurious forty-storey high-rise, where residents enjoy a comfortable existence shielded from the outside world. The protagonist, Dr. Robert Laing, moves into the building and quickly becomes acquainted with his fellow tenants. As tensions between the upper and lower floors start to rise, the social structure within the high-rise weakens. Richard Wilder, an ambitious documentary filmmaker, takes charge of the elevators, straining relationships between floors. Parties escalate into orgies, and distrust spreads through the residents.

Amidst this chaos, Laing observes the behavior of his neighbors, including the sinister architect, Anthony Royal, who presides over the penthouse floor. Royal identifies with the building more than its residents, embodying a godlike figure who watches the mayhem with detached fascination.

**Chapter 2: Middle Levels**

Chapter two reveals the deterioration of social order within the middle levels of the high-rise. Power struggles intensify, as residents engage in acts of violence and vandalism. Laing finds himself caught between the two warring factions led by Richard Wilder and Anthony Royal. The floors become territories, each defending their own space and resources.

Laing, initially an outsider, adapts to his new environment and even develops an intimate relationship with a neighbor, Helen. However, as the high-rise plunges into anarchy and primitive behavior dominates, Laing retreats from the escalating violence, seeking solace in his isolated apartment.

**Chapter 3: Upper Floors**

The high-rise’s upper floors reveal a surreal and dystopian world. By this point, the building has transformed into a self-contained society, reminiscent of a primitive civilization. Devolving into savagery, the residents mutilate and murder one another. Classes and hierarchies dissolve entirely, with each inhabitant reduced to base, animalistic instincts.

As the power structure inside the building collapses, fires rage, and chaos reigns. Laing, having adapted to the chaos, becomes a kind of honorary royal resident, venturing through the anarchy to visit the penthouse and confront Anthony Royal. The narrative concludes with Laing’s acceptance of his new role within the high-rise’s brutal society.


High Rise delves into various captivating themes. Ballard’s exploration of the fragility of social order serves as a social commentary, depicting how quickly established structures can crumble under the right conditions. The high-rise represents a microcosm of society, showcasing the innate brutality that lurks beneath the surface of civilization.

Additionally, the novel explores themes of isolation and alienation, with the residents becoming increasingly disconnected from the outside world. Their identification with the building supersedes their sense of belonging to a larger community, leading to internal conflicts and a breakdown of humanity. Ballard also touches upon the concept of class conflict, as the disparities between the different floors fuel tension and violence.


High Rise remains a seminal work of dystopian fiction due to its unapologetic depiction of the darker aspects of human nature. Ballard’s vivid portrayal of societal disintegration serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of the delicate balance upon which civilization rests. By peeling back the layers of human behavior and exposing our innate savagery, High Rise challenges readers to question the fragility of the social structures surrounding them. The novel encourages critical examination of human tendencies, bringing attention to the potential consequences of overlooking the darker aspects of our nature.