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Less Than Zero (Less Than Zero #1)

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  45,499 Ratings  ·  2,357 Reviews
Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980's, this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money a place devoid of feeling or hope.

Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a lan
Paperback, Vintage Contemporaries, 208 pages
Published June 9th 2010 by Vintage Books (first published 1985)
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American Psycho by Bret Easton EllisLord of the Flies by William Golding1984 by George OrwellA Child Called "It" by Dave PelzerA Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Most Disturbing Book Ever Written
86th out of 1,787 books — 6,464 voters
Fight Club by Chuck PalahniukA Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Best Transgressive Fiction
22nd out of 721 books — 615 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 26, 2008 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of today's mtv reality shows about overprivileged, lobotomized so-cal youth
Recommended to Jessica by: marshall
This book seems boring and shallow, and reading it gives me an anesthetized, hollow, detached feeling that I would not describe as entirely pleasant.

And yet I cannot seem to stop, and whenever I have to, I become very anxious to return to it as quickly as I can. Its appeal is no less powerful for being difficult to pinpoint or explain.

This experience reminds me of something, but I'm not sure what.... Oh yeah, I know: Bright Lights, Big City. Way better, though, so far. I love all the characters'
Krok Zero
Dec 22, 2013 Krok Zero rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2010
Last year I spent a few months as an intern for a major national arts publication, which shall remain nameless because that makes me look cooler than if I just blurted it out. I had a few regular duties at this (unpaid) gig, the primary one being transcription of interviews. You might think that transcribing is drudgery, and in a sense it is. But if the interview subject was interesting—and, given this publication's bent and cachet, most of the subjects were interesting—it provided a rare glimps ...more
mark monday
some books are like the face of Justin Long:


this is a highly punchable face. don't you just want to punch that smug look right off of his corny face? it is a face born for being stomped into the ground. ugh, i hate justin long. although i loved him in the last few seconds of Jeepers Creepers, he was perfect for the role of Gutted Horror Victim.

i also hate Less Than Zero. i blame this book for all of the ennui-laden, masturbatory nonsense that was foisted upon the world in the 80s. shouldn't Bre
Jul 18, 2008 Ratscats rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: assholes
Recommended to Ratscats by: an asshole
Rich kids doing drugs. Ugh.
Actually, my view of this book was kind of distorted by this man I used to work with at this coffee shop.
He was a huge fan if this author. And he was also a writer himself (published in Hustler!). He was in his 40's and still trying to break out. He had a son that was autistic and had tons of medical bills but because he still wanted to be a struggling artist his family had to suffer.
So, he gives me the manuscript of one of his books (that was rejected by several publi
Sep 20, 2007 Derek rated it it was ok
Why should I care about Bret Easton Ellis' characters if he doesn't care about them? The aptly titled Less Than Zero didn't bother to go into the character's inner-dialogue any more than it bothered to show a character that anyone might care about. Sure, the things they do (random sex, drug abuse, etc) make great fodder for fiction, but if there's no counterweight of compassion, what do I care if they fuck up their lives?

I get it: they're emotionally vacant and aimless because of the environment
Jan 13, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: family-drama, drugs
Books of this nature age well with me. I keep thinking about what happened, what Ellis might have meant. I find it fascinating what people walk away with from this and American Psycho. It seems rather obvious to me that this book is not just about spoiled rich drug addicts wasting away while taking some of their world with them. The characters' actions, more specifically their lack of action, says so much for the state of the times in this book, for LA, for American culture, all of which I find ...more
Edward Lorn
Nov 10, 2015 Edward Lorn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less Than Zero is an affecting ridealong in a car full of coke-addled rich kids. The ending is properly shocking. I was, as was intended, thoroughly disgusted, as I'm sure you will be too.

I didn't like a single character. The book has all the appeal of a trainwreck that causes a chemical spill at your local kindergarten. You don't read this book for fun. You read it to justify your hatred of humanity and all things wealthy.

Christian Rummel does a fantastic job with the audiobook.

In summation:
Jan 01, 2011 Trin rated it it was ok
Another empty novel about emptiness, oh joy! I read this because friends were always like, “You’ve never read Bret Easton Ellis? Whaaaaat?” But now I have and we never have to talk about it again. Yay.
The defense I see most often of Ellis is: "You just don't get the joke." And could there be a more annoying defense? How can you even respond to that? It's meaningless.

And it's not a joke. It's satire; that's totally different.

I spent tonight arguing about Ellis with some very smart contrarians, and here's what they said: Ellis has captured the soulless Me First Generation, and their failure to connect with life, in a really effective way. He refuses his rival David Foster Wallace's edict that l
Jun 09, 2007 Joe rated it it was amazing
One question before we start, "Anthracite?"

Less than Zero is a meditation on the soul-less, physically obsessed world that was born in the 1980s. Yes, perhaps the pedulum has swung to and fro since the publication, but I find the relevance striking to today's pop-culture aesthetic. If Easton Ellis was writing this story today, which his website says he is working on a sequel!?! TECHNOLOGY would or will seperate the characters even more. The Internet is the most convenient place at this time to "
Ailsa Lillywhite
Sep 22, 2008 Ailsa Lillywhite rated it liked it
Recommends it for: No one I currently care for.
Recommended to Ailsa by: Tatum
This book probably deserved more than three stars. But I just can't give it any more than that. I HATE this book. I hate it with my whole soul. It's so true and I am massively depressed after reading it. It perfectly illustrates the life of a completely useless waste of a human being and all his useless friends and their useless lives. It's awful. They should all be put out of their (and our) misery. The best thing I can say is that this book serves as a glorious example of how not to be. The sc ...more
Apr 30, 2008 Richard rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: nihilists, dummies
Shelves: saw-the-film
Okay, so I was willing to accept this book as a criticism of the emptiness of modern culture. I was willing to overlook the dullness and amateurishness. But it just got duller and duller and duller. And yes, we know American culture is a wasteland. But there has to be a more interesting way to get this across. And if I am to accept this book as metaphor, I'm going to have to disagree with its premise because I think it's cynical to the point of inaccuracy. It was like a Wes Anderson movie: I can ...more
May 16, 2016 Darwin8u rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
“Fear never shows up and the party ends early.”
― Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero


I'm afraid I OD'd on LA novels this week. Started with 'Less than Zero', added the Black Dahlia, and finished with The Day of the Locusts. Let me just say, I'm definitely not planning on moving to that City where people and their dreams both go to die. A visit of 3 days was just enough to reestablished my conviction.

I had a hard time deciding whether to read Less than Zero. I hold B.E.E. with a certain level of co
Sean Wilson
Disappear here...

It’s hard to imagine a better published first novel than Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, published in 1985, when the writer was just 21. The tender age didn’t seem to bother Ellis as he effortlessly deconstructs the youth of his generation in Los Angeles. It’s cold, nihilistic, raw and driven by emotionless desires. It’s this detachedness that gives power to Bret Easton Ellis’ minimalist prose.

Tightly controlled, the novel follows the narrator, Clay, an eighteen year old re
A large part of this book is boring and the characters are all just horrible people but the overall effect is amazing. It races along full of boring details and you feel like sticking pins in your eyes and shouting at the characters but then it drops in anvil heavy, horrific statements so subtly it just merges into the text. It's so subtle it makes it all the more shocking.
Bret Easton Ellis is amzing at writing dialogue. This was a point that kept me going. All his "and then I did this, and then
Karly *The Vampire Ninja & Luminescent Monster*
My random musings on Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis.

I'll start off this review by informing anyone who may read, or listen, that this book is a terrible idea for a vacation book. Why my deranged mind chose this novel of all things to bring with me is something I may need to see a psychiatrist for.

In my opinion Less Than Zero is Catcher in the Rye meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Firstly, there is the unlovable main character, Clay, who indiscriminately sleeps with everyone while stic
Dec 28, 2015 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are some books that after you finish, you sit there holding it, the last page, the last word staring back at you, and you just kind of zone out and ponder everything that's happened since you picked it up; everything that happened in the story, everything that happened in real life.

Before I drove back from my folks today, back to hit the road again, I was watching the news. On the news crawl at the bottom of the screen a snippet kept passing that said 31 people had died in a blast in Syri
Dec 25, 2013 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
I've never read Ellis before, and since he published this when he was just 21, I'm not sure if or how to really come to grips with it. The style is obviously super flat, though whether this is because Ellis simply wasn't able to write otherwise at such a young age or if he was just smart enough to realize he's probably too young to try, I can't say. But I found Clay's cool, detached narration to be, if nothing else, fairly engaging. Not revelatory, not brilliant, but interesting enough to keep m ...more
Nov 16, 2007 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Bret Easton Ellis is one of my favorite authors of all time.

"Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980's this coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation".

This book contains my favorite exchange between any two characters in any book I have read.

"Where are we going?" I asked
"I don't know," he said. "Just driving."
"But this road doesn't go anywhere," I told him.
"That doesn't matter."
"What does?" I asked, after a little while.
"Just that we're on it, dude," he said.
Leo Olmos
Apr 25, 2013 Leo Olmos rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
"Years ago people could have read some of your books and said, "Oh, this is just nihilism. These people don't exist! There's nobody that rich and stupid and narcissistic!"

Well, Surprise, Ellis remarks in a recent interview. Back in the 80s, the bunch of assholes portrayed here might have looked like an exaggeration of youth. Now, in the emerging trend of reality shows, now, where wealthy people get wealthier and famous for doing nothing, they have their perfumes, their TV time, their records, an
Jul 12, 2010 Jasmine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american

Okay I am giving this book five stars for the exact opposite reason I gave amphibian five stars. This book is everything that I want from a book. Moral bankruptcy, intense boredom, and of course a good dose of spoiled rich kids. Although I have to say that Clay is clearly a device being used to stop you from becoming too angry with the books inherent moral bankruptcy, after all the main character is disgusted too, not that he intends to do anything about it but hell at least he isn't
Apr 03, 2014 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The images I had were of people being driven mad by living in the city. Images of parents who were so hungry and unfulfilled that they ate their own children. Images of people, teenagers my own age, looking up from the asphalt and being blinded by the sun.

I can well understand readers coming away with less than zero from Ellis's first novel because it is spiritless. The characters are robotically waking, eating, partying, fucking, getting high and trying to sleep it all away. Picture a never en
Niki F
May 15, 2011 Niki F rated it really liked it
At first you expect one of those stories where rich teenagers do drugs, party and waste their time. And it is. But it's also confusing, disturbing and makes you think about people in general.

The numbness of the main character makes you want to yell at him: "Feel something, for God's sake". The side characters are the same and sooner or later you get dragged in the world of those people not able to feel anymore, whether it comes to love or pure cruelty. They are just not able to have any emotion
Jan 19, 2008 Thomas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: foundation-texts
I re-read this while in L.A. late summer 2007, and I was surprised how much power it still possesses. It was such a comforting hollow to crawl into when I found it in 1986, and I suppose I liked it for many of the same reasons that made it a classic, at least for the unfortunately tagged Generation X.

Revisiting the novel, though, was a blast, largely because it was nothing like I remembered. That God-awful film of it, starring Robert Downey Jr. and my then-heartthrob Andrew McCarthy, has tainted
Dec 13, 2013 Christopher rated it it was ok
Vacuous and inane, filled with bad writing and failed attempts at philosophical depth, such as:

...later when we got into the car he took a turn down a street that I was pretty sure was a dead end.
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said. "Just driving."
"But this road doesn't go anywhere," I told him.
"That doesn't matter."
"What does?" I asked, after a little while.
"Just that we're on it, dude," he said.
I would give this book Less Than Zero stars if I could.

I picked up this book for multiple reasons. But the main reason was because it was in the bargain bin at Books-A-Million for $5.97. Mr. Ellis was my age when this book was published, so I thought I’d get great insight on troubled young adults against the back drop of Los Angeles, but instead I got a bunch of obnoxious teenagers with drug problems.

Here's what's wrong:

Writing Style
One of the main issues I had with this book was the writing
Jun 02, 2012 Nate rated it it was amazing

"All it comes down to is that I'm a boy coming home for a month and meeting someone whom I haven't seen for four months and people are afraid to merge."

I read that sentence and I was hooked. A page into the story and I knew that there was something worth saying. I didn't know how twisted and depressing and carnal it would get, but I kept reading. On the back cover it says "Catcher in the Rye for the MTV generation." I understand the comparison. The disaff
Oct 19, 2011 Shadazz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2011
When I read the story of Clay Whats-his-last-name and his L.A. buddies I think of The Great Gatsby. No surprise because they are both a sort of satirical, depiction of lifestyles decades apart; yet somehow similar. This would be a very general likeness, I could go on talking about the common elemets the two books have for me: the importance of billboards and their text or images (Elvis billboard and Dr. Don't-remember-his-name with the big eyes billboard); the detachment of the narrator; Running ...more
Katelin Toth
Jan 05, 2015 Katelin Toth rated it it was amazing
Let me begin by saying, every time I leave my Los angeles apartment, I keep my eyes open for Bret Easton Ellis so that I can start stalking him. I can relate to his apathetic characters, the way they breeze past decisions with their innocent passivity. I wasn't partying in the Reagan eighties but I've had my share of excesses. I don't care so I like reading about people that care less than me. Was I the only person that suspected Clay's style? If this story took place in the ninties, Clay would ...more
Sep 11, 2007 Cheri rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People Trapped on an Island with only this to read.
Shelves: ick
I remember reading this book when it came out and trying to figure out who the characters were. I am younger than Ellis by quite a bit, but there was a certain girl who was the older sister of a friend, who was supposed to be the template for one of the characters in the novel. That was probably the most interesting part of reading the book.

Knowing that several passages in the book are actually rip offs of Joan Didion's work, really gives you a whole other reason to loathe it outside of the artl
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2015 Reading Chal...: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis 2 23 Apr 25, 2015 12:37PM  
Meaning/purpose 9 212 Apr 01, 2015 12:42AM  
i want to know about its 1st chapter 1 21 Apr 01, 2015 12:18AM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis 1 20 Feb 05, 2015 09:25AM  
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Bret Easton Ellis is an American author. He is considered to be one of the major Generation X authors and was regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack, which also included Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney. He has called himself a moralist, although he has often been pegged as a nihilist. His characters are young, generally vacuous people, who are aware of their depravity but choose to en ...more
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“But this road doesn't go anywhere,” I told him.
“That doesn't matter.”
“What does?” I asked, after a little while.
“Just that we're on it, dude,” he said.”
“People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles. This is the first thing I hear when I come back to the city. Blair picks me up from LAX and mutters this under her breath as she drives up the onramp. She says, "People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles." Though that sentence shouldn't bother me, it stays in my mind for an uncomfortably long time. Nothing else seems to matter. Not the fact that I'm eighteen and it's December and the ride on the plane had been rough and the couple from Santa Barbara, who were sitting across from me in first class, had gotten pretty drunk. Not the mud that had splattered on the legs of my jeans, which felt kind of cold and loose, earlier that day at an airport in New Hampshire. Not the stain on the arm of the wrinkled, damp shirt I wear, a shirt which looked fresh and clean this morning. Not the tear on the neck of my gray argyle vest, which seems vaguely more eastern than before, especially next to Blair's clean tight jeans and her pale-blue shirt. All of this seems irrelevant next to that one sentence. It seems easier to hear that people are afraid to merge than "I'm pretty sure Muriel is anorexic" or the singer on the radio crying out about magnetic waves. Nothing else seems to matter to me but those ten words. Not the warm winds, which seem to propel the car down the empty asphalt freeway, or the faded smell of marijuana which still faintly permeates Blaire's car. All it comes down to is the fact that I'm a boy coming home for a month and meeting someone whom I haven't seen for four months and people are afraid to merge.” 125 likes
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