"Later, as he sat on the balcony eating the dog, Doctor Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months."
A casually disturbing opening line had me pretty much hooked from the start. While dystopian-future books are currently all the rage in science-fiction circles, this is more of a dystopian present. Although possibly seeming far fetched when it was written in 1975, now in 2012 high-rises are springing up all over the docklands area of London. Ballard presents us the first of such high-rises, built just near where I live - it's set in an unspecified dockland area north of the river on a bend. Sounds pretty much like Victoria Docks or somewhere very near there.
The titular high-rise, is the first of a two high-rise development. Once the tower is full, slowly things start to go wrong. Lift's break down, electricity supply failures, etc. Initially the residents blame these failures on the development itself, but before long they're blaming each other. Then then trouble really starts as the residents form into gangs and the whole apartment block descends into Lord of the Flies
Living in an apartment block, the whole story rang all too true. The slightest problems with your neighbours rapidly escalate into all kinds of bitter blame games. Rubbish in the wrong bins, late night parties or parking in the wrong parking spaces - all things that you start to believe your neighbours are doing deliberately to annoy you.
The only annoyances with the book were a couple of Americanisms - elevator rather than lift for example - and an annoying misprint half way through the book that duplicated the first half of a sentence at the expense of the second half. Neither of which really detracted from a fascinating idea that's excellently told.