Platform by Michel Houellebecq

He seems to have become a fashionable writer, but I hadn’t read him before this. I didn’t like it. He’s a clever man, and he expresses his ideas with clarity and force – but he does so by creating a protagonist who has views that seemed like blinkered nonsense to me, which is okay, because I obviously don’t expect every character to talk sense; the trouble for me comes from the author then creating a bunch of other characters who are given substance and intelligence and appeal and apparent human worth in proportion to how much they go along with him, and how much living in accord with his notions suits them. His portrayal of sex tourism as an entirely good and happy thing with no bad consequences at all is utterly implausible – all of the Cuban and Thai prostitutes are happy and affectionate and healthy and adult and making really good money. Those with opposed views are either puritans talking obvious rubbish or crazed terrorists – no one expresses a reasonable downside to any of this, least of all the author, and there are plenty of sensible arguments against this set of views. There are also irritating minor errors – cutting costs by 25% and increasing price by 25% does not mean that profits therefore rise by 50%, for instance. He usually seems smart enough to do better than this, but maybe not grown up and open enough to honestly look at other sides of his beliefs, or to write love convincingly.

I probably need to emphasise that actually I do agree with some parts of what he is saying – I’m very open about my own rather unconventional sex life, and believe some of what he says about Western sexual mores – and my problem isn’t with his ideas about sex or the amount of it here, just the surprisingly adolescent, self-centred and smug way he goes about turning them into a novel. I was astounded to be reminded by these failings of the worst tendencies of a trivial author like Robert Heinlein, especially Stranger In A Strange Land.