What happens when your parents are hedonistic, uber-rich Hollywood socialites who care more about their latest tan than bringing up intelligent, well-adjusted kids? You get college-aged adults with too much money and too much time. The setting? Los Angeles in the early 80’s and all its briefly but meticulously described enclaves of Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and even the Valley.
Every book seeks to expose the hidden realities of a person, place or thing to an outside world. In order to do that, you have to capture reality and then let it out in a way people recognize. Ellis does this by not going over the top and making the book into some Hollywood caricature of L.A. with palm trees and movie stars everywhere. He seems to really understand the ins and outs of an upper-class L.A. lifestyle from first hand experience whether it’s the procuring of illegal contrabands or cruising down the freeway.
Less than Zero shows the world that all is not well with in the families of propaganda makers. The same crap they brain wash the dumbed out public is making its way back to their own kids. There’s no indictment of actors or studios, but rather, the lifestyle of a general Hollywood elite shows itself to be as vacant as the shit they produce.
More generally speaking, he brings out the mundane boringness of Los Angeles really well. That sense that you’re instantly bored where ever you go unless you’re doing something hyper extreme. Conversely, he also describes the small quiet moments when people are alone with nothing to do and nowhere to go but wander off to sleep.
The main character Clay is a numbed out college kid who’s come back to the West Coast for the winter holidays. His brief vacation consists of reuniting with separated parents (his dad has become gay), old friends (mostly drug dealers or drug addicts) and lovers (like his sort of ex-girlfriend who has been sleeping around) in between all the snorting of coke and having sex with both chicks and dudes.