Imperial Bedrooms is the sequel to Less Than Zero and Bret Easton Ellis (the author of both) sure knows it.
From the first words of the first chapter he slides right back into the same familiar stylistic choices that made the first book so memorable, only this time it all falls very, very flat.
Let me explain.
In Less Than Zero the entire book read like one long thought process. It didn’t really have a plot, it just, sort of, existed. As you read you go from the beginning of winter break to the end and see some incredibly terrible things along the way, and because it’s almost like you’re parked behind the protagonist’s eyes you feel like you’re there. Nothing seems staged, nothing seems planned. Nothing seems like fiction.
In Imperial Bedrooms Mr. Ellis tries to inject traditional storytelling mechanisms like a jilted lover and a murder mystery into this same winning style. These mechanisms immediately shatter the idea that everything is just happening. The reality that what you’re reading is just a story and not some crazy first hand memoir is instantly apparent, and as a result the entire thing loses its most compelling element. What you’re left with is a poorly concocted mystery novel that doesn’t really have a mystery. Oh and it, like Less Than Zero, is randomly punctuated throughout with graphic descriptions of over-the-top violence. Only this time, because you’re not as attached, it all just seems excessive and disgusting. It’s weak sauce.
In its defense though, IB has an incredibly smart first 30ish pages where Mr. Ellis runs down how the characters all got from Less Than Zero to the present day. Beyond that though it just withers.
I did not enjoy reading this book.
And beyond that, I don’t know what else I can say.