I had such high hopes for this book – which really isn’t a book, its a novella. 160 pages, written in that Ellis-ian style of short paragraphs with space in-between each… come on. This is a novella. An epilogue, a bonus feature. Sure, it’s also a “sequel” to Less Than Zero, but it isn’t so much a sequel as it is a revisiting of old… well, they aren’t friends per se. You know what I mean, though.
Bret Easton Ellis is one of my favorite authors. People go back and forth about him, his misogyny, his sensationalizing of ultraviolence, being a member of the literary Brat Pack, etc etc. I’ve never found a reason not to like him, though. His books are rough, acerbic, and full of a general misanthropy that other authors only occasionally deal with. If that isn’t your cup of tea, then stay away – but sometimes it isn’t a bad thing to dive into the dark side. Plus, he’s a talented pasticher, as it turns out: Glamorama was a fun twist on spy novels, American Psycho was the slasher novel, Lunar Park the ghost story. This book (as has been repeated ad nauseum in the press) is apparently his attempt to write a Raymond Chandler-esque detective novel. Apparently.
Look, it isn’t that. I mean, there are similarities – the people trailing Clay, the mystery that never REALLY gets solved but kind of, the femme fatale… but this is more of just an extended story about Clay and Rip and Julian and Blair in 2010. There’s a great riff at the beginning of the novel about how Less Than Zero was actually a lightly fictionalized account, written by “someone who knew us” – thus bringing the Bret Easton Ellis ‘character’ of Lunar Park fully into the fictionalized world of Ellis’ other novel (I do love the interconnectivity).
There was also a strange echo of Roberto Bolano’s 2666. Not sure if that was intentional or not – I think, honestly, it was. The references are too on-point for it to’ve just been a mysterious coincidence. There’s direct reference to the murders, there’s implications of Rip having been involved… it is an interesting and unexpected connection – but I liked it. Again, I enjoy connectivity between novels, authors, worlds (sometimes).
The problem with this book is that it is, as I said, essentially a novella – but it is pitched as a full novel. It just doesn’t have the weight to really be a full novel. The resolution at the end seemed a little rushed and trite and expected, even. However, the novel ends with one of those absolutely immediately classic Ellis quotes: “I’ve never liked anyone and I’m afraid of people.”
Rating: 3 out of 5. I wish I could give this book more. It has the same numb tone as its (far superior) predecessor, the tone is unmistakable, and it has been far too long since Ellis had a new book… it’s just that this wasn’t enough to satisfy me. It was, as I’ve said, a novella – an epilogue to the story of Clay and those wasted youths now grown up. That said, I enjoyed it for what it was. Some authors, I’ll read anything – Ellis is one of those authors.