I’d read so much appreciation for Houellebecq’s work that I finally had to try one for myself. This was a strange and frustrating read. There were parts that I found quite thoughtful and engaging. And I was willing to dig into some of the long conversations about art, though I’m sure I’m lacking the background to understand all of them. There were parts that I found funny and insightful. Modern consumerism is a target for some sharp insights. And there is much about mortality that I was glad to ponder.

But then a character named Michel Houellebecq enters, and things take a turn for the meta. And just a few pages after the book becomes less of a story than a series of didactic speeches, the plot twists and we have a mystery on our hands and Houellebecq (the author) is back to writing a story.

Certainly, there are moments in this story that I will recall – Jed Martin’s maps, the brothel adjacent to a place where people go to get euthanized, etc.. But I don’t think I’ll be trying another Houellebecq.