Clay comes back to LA for his Christmas vacation from college, reunited with his friends and begins his days at drug fuelled parties and sexual encounters, but starts to build an alienation towards his old peer group as their tormented lifestyles start to unravel.
Less Than Zero is set in 1980s Los Angeles and captures a young generation losing themselves in an over glamorized lifestyle.
Titled after the song by Elvis Costello, Less Than Zero is a captivating novel exploring a society engrossed by casual nihilism, passivity and wealth in a place where hope is just a word. Readers will appreciate Easton Ellis’ raw, uncut and remarkably beautiful detailing of a city washed by silent chaos and graver detailing of a society of nothingness. This is a novel about the shallow, pop cultured youth engulfed with fucking, drinking and taking drugs… Think of the scene in the Scooby Doo Hallway were objects are casually repeating itself. The whole novel feels like one god awful trip you cannot tear yourself away from, Easton Ellis captures each moment like a Polaroid, except it’s filled with heroin crazies instead of pearly white smiles, because there is much, much more to it than that. The protagonist Clay narrates us through his encounters with his friends and family. There are moments were you honour this character, but his behaviour takes a unnerving turn, you start to question who can you sympathise and cheer for, although his bleak and empathetic structure seems to be what carries through as he begins a journey of self discovery and the urge to desperately get out of this never ending wormhole that is LA. As Clay is reunited with his good friend Trent, who is now a supermodel, the gang spends their days at drug fuelled parties and having sexual encounters with males and females. Amongst the fancy life were everyone drives a Porsche or BMW, Clay is also in search for his old girlfriend Blair and Julian whom he hadn’t heard from in months.
Clay becomes disillusioned and finds that reuniting with his hedonistic youth serves him with consequences of moral depravity. As witness to the suffering of his friends jokingly taking Polaroid’s of others shooting heroin; rumours of Julian in danger circulating his head and experiences of deep apathy and revulsion over Trent showing off a snuff film at one of the parties. Throughout the novel, Clay talks about his past and the happier moments spent with his family. He talks about how much he wants to just get out, yet he cannot leave until he is absolute about Julian’s safety, there seems to be something nerving about how LA has such a hold on Clay, it’s almost a stigma.
The sympathy for the characters is gained but then lost, yet it’s a read that cannot be put down because of the gritty horrors, showcasing how neglected these kids and how they seem to blend into one, it seems that money is just the first step, what matters is how dark this new world can be. Less Than Zero triumphs in being one of the most disturbing cult classics I have read. It succeeds in making my stomach turn a little and winch, as this is a novel detailing a bunch of teenagers no older than eighteen already embarking in a new wave of self experiments that send chills in your veins. A society of rebellious children acting up to their shallow parents of whom are all high flying Hollywood stars of some sort.
This book may appear shallow and disillusioned, yet it captures the stage of youth growing into a world of ultra violence. Hat’s off to the author Bret Easton Ellis and his first novel written when he was only 21, he’s definitely captured the pure self indulgent and spoiled generation of sociopath’s in the 1980’s Hollywood scene, having all but still wanting more.
Release Date: 1985