Imperial Bedrooms

October 4, 2011


I was sceptical about a sequel to Less Than Zero, the scorching debut novel by Brett Easton Ellis written in the 80s while he was still at college. (Having written my uni dissertation on American Psycho, his take on the human cost of American capitalism, I have a bit of an interest in the work of Ellis)

If you can forgive the need to make the sequel also take place in a short period over Christmas in LA, when the protagonist has just returned from a period of time on the east coast, it is actually a reasonable read.

We find the characters of the first novel now middle aged and jaded. (This theme has resonance for me as I have recently made the mortifying discovery I am middle aged, and not the person I was at 22) The opening of the book casts Ellis as a friend of the group who wrote down what happened to them in the first novel. This is mentioned to explain how they all ended up at the premiere of the film version of the first novel, watching brat pack era movie stars play them. And unlike in the novel, one of them is killed off. Apparently the ‘real’ character was mortified to discover he was killed off.

The examination of what the Less Than Zero characters became is interesting, particularly for those who have followed the career of Ellis. The novel is really readable (unlike Glamarama, which I have still never finished). At some point (the vanishing point?) I would like to read Less Than Zero again, quickly followed by Imperial Bedrooms, as I think that would show just how good the first novel is and give an exact measurement of whether the sequel stands real comparison to the debut novel, which was one of the best fiction written in the 1980s.

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