Told through the eyes of Clay, a young man who comes home from college for Christmas, Less than Zero is as fast-paced and addictive as the lifestyles its characters lead. Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, Bret Easton Ellis was only an 18-year-old himself when he penned this raw, honest and in many ways emotionless debut.
It’s not to say that Less than Zero’s financially privileged characters don’t have emotions. The problem is they have experienced too much too early, resulting in them existing in a hedonistic reality filled with sex, drugs and violence. In other words: lots of money but little hope.
The story centres on the lead character, Clay, trying to renew old feelings for his on-off girlfriend, Blair, as well as look out for his best friend from high school, Julian, who is losing his way to heroin and hustling. Clay’s holiday transforms into a desperate and dangerous haze of endless house parties in fancy mansions, seedy nightclubs and other settings that help paint the scene of LA in the eighties.
Less than Zero might be a story we’ve read before, but the way it’s told by Bret Easton Ellis, as well as the environment it’s told in, renews the classic coming-of-age tale. In other words, Lord of the Flies is given a lick of paint for the MTV Generation. A must-read for anyone who was there, wish they’d been there or is there now.