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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Few flaws, many touches of genius
Houellebecq is a man who breaks taboo's, probably the only major author alive who tackles subjects such as sexual tourism, paedophilia, the alieness of islamic culture, inter-racial sexual attraction, all of which are surely some of the most noteworthy socio-historical phenomonen of the new millenium, yet not the topics that tend to win backslapping literary awards,...
Published on 3 April 2006 by Bruno

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better than Atomised?
Again much relevant comment is already available on Amazon and the leading reviews are reasonably pertinent. But I see nothing very much in Platform to enhance Houellebecq's "Great Writer" status. I fail to see where Anita Brookner - herself a fine and impeccable stylist- finds "brilliance". However, it is a much better book than Atomised (incidently the original title...
Published on 23 Feb 2008 by J. Dance

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another good book--but not as good as Atomised., 27 July 2005
This review is from: Platform (Paperback)
Well, well, I read Platform right through in a day and a bit and it was a good book; its controversy and supposed Islamophobia had bought it some notoriety which, I have to say, is mostly undeserved. As a novel, I don't think it was as good as Atomised--the big ideas were mostly absent in this one. Yes, he did make some astute observations on Western sexuality but that was also present in Atomised. The story, as far as it went, I felt was quite slight: Michel (he always seems to use his own name as that of his main protagonist) goes on a package holiday to Thailand where he meets Valerie. After the holiday they start a passionate affair. Although he doesn't say it in the book, it is obvious that he is in love with her (I don't think Houellebecq believes in Love). They have lots and lots of sex. In public, in S&M bars, they participate in orgies. She is a high flying executive in a large tour operator organisation and then gets an even more high flying job in a global chain of hotels. He is a civil servant. The book has a lot of canny observations on the holiday industry. Obviously, he researches his books very well although it is obvious his work is largely autobiographical too. I learnt a lot about how hotel chains and holiday resorts operate. Well, anyway, about 3/4 of the way through the book, Michel speaks to Valerie's boss (who is in a loveless marriage: his wife cheats on him in S&M bars; he has a brief affair with their 15 year old au pair) about the economic advantages of setting up a sex tourism chain of hotels. The idea is a huge hit.

Then disaster strikes. In one such sex hotel in Thailand, Islamic terrorists strike, killing hundreds, including Valerie, who is gunned down in front of Michel. Amazingly, he survives, although is in obvious shock and gets hospitalised for a while. When he leaves hospital he decides to stay permanently in Thailand where he writes this book. There are strong implications that he commits suicide although this is not stated explicitly.

It is after these events that his Islamophobia really kicks in. He makes comments about feeling happy when he hears that Palestinian children, women and men have been killed by Israelis. This hate and bitterness though is understandable in the context of the story. He also makes a few minor Arab characters, tourists, say disparaging things about Islam too: the typical cliches, how it has contributed nothing much to modern civilisation, how it was spread by the sword. Nothing worth getting worked up about to be honest and I can see why Houellebecq was cleared of inciting racism. Inside his Islamophobic comments he does make veracious observations about the reality of Muslims in this day and age. He notes how most French Muslims do not practise much and how most of the Arab girls are as French as the rest of society; he particularly notes how they are usually no longer virgins when they get married! He fantasises about 'Muslim vaginas'. He also talks about the intellectual stagnation of Muslim countries implicitly in recent centuries and that is something which cannot be denied either.

So, these are my thoughts. No doubt, he has the typical views of some uninformed bigots about Islam but a lot of what he says, although not pleasant to read, is mostly based on fact, especially his remarks about Muslim societies today. Something he should do, is read a good book about Islamic history though!

A satisfactory book, well-written and engaging but not as good as his previous one
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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sex and Shopping for pseudo-intellectuals, 29 Sep 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Platform (Paperback)
While Whatever and Atomised were deeply unpleasant but at least were given a certain sub-swiftian power by the sheer depth of the writers loathing for the whole human race and particularly its forty-something male segment, Platform is a tired, thin, rehash of the same themes, with characters largely indistinguishable from the earlier books and a plot that minus the racism, misanthropy and half-baked Gaulois-puffing philosophising, owes a lot to the Sex and Shopping sagas of the 1980s and 1990s with a dash of Emannuelle thrown in.
Much of the comment on the French edition was aimed at the author's (or at least his main characters) perceived racism. Muslims, West Indians and Thais only appear here as murderers, rapists and prostitutes - threats if male, ideally submissive sex-objects if female.
However so flat, one-dimensional and boring are Houellebecq's characters that once the minor shock of accepting that middle-
class educated people are racist too has passed we actually learn nothing from them and it is difficult to even feel outrage.
What is occasionally interesting in the book and lifts it above one star (although not to three stars) is that it does portray actual office life rather well, particularly the shallowness and vapidity of marketing and PR.
However filling an entire book with meetings, memoranda and e-mail intrigues would be far too unpleasant for most of us,
so it is with some relief that he moves to the delights of sex-tourism which oddly he is far poorer at describing.
A bad book, but not quite bad enough to be entertaining - there are many, many better things in the world to spend your £6.99 on.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Average, 21 Sep 2009
This review is from: Platform (Paperback)
I liked the story but the writing lacks emotion and you feel nothing for the characters.
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9 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars porn masquerading as art, 25 Aug 2004
This review is from: Platform (Paperback)
Imagine the scenario: Martin Amis pens a novel full of bad sex and overblown philosophy and, rightfully, gets slated. Michel Houllebecq does the same thing, but because he's French, we are suddenly supposed to be falling over ourselves to call this sophisticated. I'm sorry, but it's not. It's actually a cheap holiday thrill, read by the pool over a few pina coladas before dinner-time, as tawdry and illusory as the sex tourism trade that the novel engages with. And a few parallels with Camus does not suddenly promote this book to the realm of serious literature. In fact, the last and heartiest laugh must go to the author, who has expertly hoodwinked us into thinking this is culture.
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7 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Middle-aged wet dream, 15 Aug 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Platform (Paperback)
Yep, man in his forties engages in pornographic fest with a twenty-five year old in the most explicit way possible, without verging on fetishism. Read it on holiday in Tunisia, left with a hard-on ever since, probably well into my fifties...
Even now at the age of 33, I struggle to find an adequately sexy 20-something year old and DEEPLY RESENT these cradle snatchers. This book will surely scar me to impotency.....
It's also mildly racist (hints of Jean-Marie Le Pen), but the subtext is humorous, definately worth a read, especially if your feeling horny!
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5 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, 16 Feb 2007
E. Eason (UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Platform (Paperback)
Reading other's reviews of this book, I have to conclude that maybe I just didn't understand it - I hated every character in the book, and felt no sympathy for any of them at any point, and as such, no real interest in their decisions or actions. I'm assuming from others' comments that this was partly the point of the story, but I found it hard to be engaged with the story given my feelings towards the characters. I couldn't work out whether the author approved of the sex industry/tourism he described, and I thought that some of the comments about foreign prostitutes enjoying their work were completely laughable...if men are that easy to fool then I worry for the state of the world...they would need to quickly be removed from all positions of power! Although maybe I have just completely missed the point....anyway, at least I was pleased at the end when I felt they all got what they deserved. And as the main character came across as so unlikable, unattrctive and lazy, I couldn't even enjoy the sex scenes....I actively resented the fact that he was getting any...oh well, at least others enjoyed this book!
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Platform by Frank Wynne (Translator) (Paperback - 4 Sep 2003)
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