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Less Than Zero

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  78,150 ratings  ·  3,602 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 May 1985)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  78,150 ratings  ·  3,602 reviews

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Apr 07, 2008 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'
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
Krok Zero
Aug 03, 2010 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
Kevin Kelsey
Jan 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
Unloved rich kids in 80s L.A. desperately try to feel something. It's depressing and disheartening, but worth it if you can stomach the apathy and hedonism. It's pretty awful at times (the events of the book). ...more
Jul 16, 2008 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
Whitney Atkinson
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
TW: drug abuse, pedophilia

The person who recommended this to me cited it as her favorite book of all time, but she had read it for a class, so I think we had different experiences with it. This book is steeped in melancholy and nihilism, which I typically enjoy, but the format and emotionlessness of this often made it difficult to read, so it took me over a month to complete. Still, I enjoyed its themes and totally understand why my friend connected with it so much. I'm jealous that she got to d
Jr Bacdayan
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
This novel irritated me but at the same time I couldn’t take my hands off it. I so clearly recognized the hardened apathy reflected in the eyes of Clay. He is a young man immobile, paralyzed by indecision, slowly rotting as he waits for whatever doom comes his way. His problem is not that he doesn’t know what he wants, but rather the ability to want has been lost in him. His circumstances, which usually is being driven by the person, is rather moving of its own accord, and he is aboard not steer ...more
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drugs, family-drama
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
Jul 31, 2007 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
Imogen Kathleen
Apr 02, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, 1-star
Honestly, I didn't like it. There were very few redeeming qualities, and I'm ready to die on this hill.

For a while, I was going to leave this review blank and pretend that I was more neutral about it. I was worried that people would tell me that I "didn't get" the book, or the messages that it was trying to send. After 3 months of reflection, I have decided that this is bullshit. In fact, I have decided that this book is bullshit.

A 1980s journey into sex, drugs and nihilism, this book builds a c
I read this book with the constant eerie feeling that I was reading someone else’s diary. I wanted to stop but couldn’t! And trust me, this was proper scary stuff.

How simple it is to stop caring or not to be afraid to lose if you think there’s actually nothing left to lose. How easy it is to think you can replace affection with a credit card. How so much easier it is to let yourself go when you’re young enough to think you’re going to live forever.

There’s a reason why this book became a bestse
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book is almost a painful exercise. Everyone is drugged up, f*@$ed up and nobody cares about anything other than getting high and wasted. Everyone is literally sleeping with everyone. Many meaningless sexual encounters where morals are left by the highway. The 80's were really about living the excess lifestyle and no place more than L.A where this book centres around. The book is one painfully awful situation after another, a lot of aimless wanderings, with lots of bad pointless dial ...more
Apr 18, 2010 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.
‘’If the book is an existential satire, its actual premise is that the world is hell disguised as paradise.’’- Ottessa Moshfegh

‘’You’re a beautiful boy and that’s all that matters.’’
Cruelty, depravity, exploitation, hopelessness…

Okay soooo I read the sequel Imperial Bedrooms last year because it was 2€ and I didn’t know it was a sequel. I will probably reread it when finals are over. I read it at 1am while watching Blackmail Boy (Οξυγόνο) and because it’s less than 200pages long I finish
Edward Lorn
Mar 15, 2015 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:
Neil Walker
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Bret Easton Ellis is listed on my author page as of my four biggest influences as a writer, the other three being Chuck Palahniuk, Stephen King and William Shakespeare.

In Less Than Zero, he is writing about his favourite time period, the 1980s, and his favourite location, Los Angeles.

The way he captures the mindset of a certain element of society in the 1980s in a particular place and pushes it to it’s logical conclusion is very much something I was trying to emulate in Drug Gang, with my chosen
May 17, 2007 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 "
This is a disquieting, scary book. It deals with youths whose minds are eroded by death of affection, amorality and a devastating spiritual apathy: eighteen-year old kids driving Porsches and vegetating on poolsides, relentlessly abused by the adults around them: absent fathers, lethargic mothers, middle-aged guys lusting after their son's schoolmates; youths exploited and exploiting each other under the dazzling sun of L.A.

Clay, the narrator, is barely conscious of the void he's floating in. Al
Sam Quixote
A young student called Clay returns to Los Angeles for Christmas break to see friends and family. His visit reads something like this: “We’re rich kids in LA! Let’s do drugs and have sex – we’re soooo hedonistic and transgressive! Ooo, let’s have sex again and do MORE drugs!” Repeat for 200 pages and you’ve got Bret Easton Ellis’ debut novel Less Than Zero!

Ellis can write really well so it’s a shame he doesn’t really have anything to say besides: rich LA brats are aimless, lost youth, their pare
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
Dec 25, 2013 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
Sean Blake
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Disappear here...

In modern times, 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 e
Dec 23, 2015 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
The Bibliophagist
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
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, christmas
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
reading is my hustle
Drugs, sex, more drugs, sex, sex, drugs. Repeat. Drive around some. Go to parties. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD make it stop.
Apr 30, 2008 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
Aug 27, 2013 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
A.C. Lillywhite
Sep 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: No one I currently care for.
Recommended to A.C. 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
Oct 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: let-s-get-high
I feel like I've been writing a lot of negative reviews lately. I wish it weren't so but apparently I need to be more discerning in my choices. Sigh.

So, whatever. I get it. I'm supposed to hate Clay and everyone else for wanking off 24/7, for spending all their time coked out and fucking each other mindlessly. I'm supposed to be critical of their wanton lifestyle and soulless existence. I'm supposed to actively want to life a life unlike theirs.

That's all true. I do. Mission accomplished.

But hon
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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 generally young vacuous people, who are aware of their depravity but choose to enj ...more

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