The insights are brilliant, and J.G. Ballard’s prose and imagery are impressive. Clearly this was also influential, at the very least on the Doctor Who episode “Paradise Towers.”

Unfortunately, some of those brilliant insights are spelled out so explicitly, so on-the-nose that they’re robbed of some of their power. Worse, the characters are at best unsympathetic and at worst repulsive, and often uncomfortably two-dimensional in between. The sort of critic who enjoys ferreting out misogyny would find plenty to chew on in High-Rise‘s zombified, passive women, who only snap out of their stupor in order to brandish long knives and form a prim man-carving clan. Not that Ballard loves men much more, but at least he allows them to revel in their license to perversity, and pursue their social climbing goals.

It really doesn’t take much to tip the high-rise residents into chaos and violence. I got the sense that Ballard views the human race as one malfunctioning air conditioner away from total savagery, which may be close to the truth but isn’t ultimately all that edifying, nor rewarding to read.