Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis 
Reviewed by Steve Rudd


Bret’s work, it seems, is either loved or truly loathed. Almost all of his past novels have been as controversial and as feared by some people as hell itself, especially as Bret focuses on taboo subjects with intense abandon. His best known book is the huge-selling American Psycho masterpiece, yet his other work is most definitely worth reading, too – if you like that kind of thing.

Alright, Less Than Zero isn’t half as engrossing or shockingly gripping as American Psycho, but Less Than Zero is buoyed by spurts of truly amazing writing. It coolly follows the exploits of a young man called Clay who returns home to LA for Christmas.

Because Clay’s friends have been brought up around so much money, there is nothing that any of them really want for or need.

The only things that really, truly turns them on is sex, drugs and a rock ‘n’ roll-affiliated lifestyle… and when we’re talking sex, it’s often in sick and twisted circumstances.

“Christmas in Palm Springs. It was always hot. Even if it was raining, it was still hot.”

Easton Ellis writes about the young and disillusioned in a similar manner to Rick Moody, the latter author having written such drama-packed gems as Garden State and The Ice Storm.

There might be far more going-nowhere dialogue than heart-attackingly staged action in Less Than Zero compared to in American Psycho, but just bear in mind that Easton Ellis was born in 1964, and this novel was published back in 1985. Yes – so this was written when he’d only just edged into his twenties: an astounding fact to behold given how powerful and attention-demanding his writing is even at this early stage in his career.

Just like Jack Kerouac’s Orpheus Emerged hinted at such a writer’s early and fast-developing talents which eventually peaked with his On The Road classic of contemporary literature, Less Than Zero - when it was first released – highlighted Easton Ellis’ incredible knack for weaving a terse narrative around disturbing acts of sex and violence.

If you like this book, you may wish to indulge in the same author’s Rules of Attraction should the prospect of yet more shocking behaviour turn you on. Alternatively, you can simply possess a curious mind in order to read and revel in the written word. After all, too much curiosity killed the cat…

ISBN 0-330-29400-8 (Picador)

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