Less Than Zero derives it's name from an Elvis Costello song written in 1977.The book plays out as the main character, a 20-something in LA, quickly finds himself so far behind the metaphorical 8-ball that breaking even would be a frickin' miracle.
From the first paragraph narrator Clay (no last name given), a Harvard student Clay home from college in New Hampshire, is surrounded and hollowed by the shallow, monotonous and vapid masquerade of upper class life in LA. This pampered and privileged class, due a culture of desensitization brought on by overindulgent and opulent lifetyles, require monstrous heights to feel anything like a human being again - even if that means rape or murder. Clay finds his life, and those of his inept drug dealer and naive model friends, cleanly commodified into equal parts tacky wardrobe, cocaine use and overindulgence.
Less Than Zero is a pointed, unflinching look at being surrounded by a out-of-touch and plastic imitation of life where the worst struggle most experience is choosing which trendy sushi bar to attend. The protagonist, slightly more sensitive than the average yuppie, is immediately mired in this superficial X-Mas-In-July atmosphere of SoCal. Clay becomes painfully aware that he needs something more than frantically reaching for skin deep perfection in an empty trip of heavy drugs and unsatisfying sex.
Clay, whose viewpoint slowly evolved beyond seedy rock clubs and relentless parties, finds his former friends in the process of burning out in dizzying downward spirals of desperation. Clay has a number of one-night stands seeking someone or something to steady him against a tide of insanity and drug abuse but only finds more grief.
Author Bret Ellis has also written two other unusual and interesting books based on sociopathic tendencies in mainstream culture: the violent American Psycho and the bizarre look at male modeling and international terrorism in Glamorama written in 1998. Imperial Bedrooms, a sequel to Less Than Zero, is scheduled for a release in June of 2010.
Wikipedia, Less Than Zero
Wikipedia, Bret Ellis
This Is Not An Exit, First Look At Imperial Bedrooms