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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 16 November 2003
Surely I can't be the only person to notice the constant references (mainly in in mirror image) with L'etranger (or rather of Camus' earlier, posthumously published verson, 'a happy death')? From the opening page where he admits, with little emotion, that his father died (as opposed to Mersault's mother), to L'etranger's M killing an Arab rather than the Arabs doing the killing in Platform, to little details like the overpaying of a prostitute in both a Happy Death and Platform? I haven't read the Camus books in over a decade, but suspect that there are far more references than the ones I noticed.
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on 13 May 2014
This novel was my first glimpse into Houellebecq's world. In it he presents a vivid portrait of the moral decline that has taken hold in western civilization. His protagonist leads a bleak, meaningless existence utterly devoid of positive aspirations and even true feelings. We see the world through the eyes of this desensitized being and can't help but despair at what we see. And yet, there is a glimmer of hope as a final chance for happiness, and perhaps even redemption, emerges in the person of Valerie, a woman who ignites long-dead feelings in the heart of the curious anti-hero of this disturbing story.
At its core, this novel is a ruthless criticism of western civilization and its lack of morality, but it is also the strangest love story I have ever read. Come to think of it, it is different from almost anything I've ever read, especially in its fearless portrayal of loveless, sometimes even perverted, sexuality, which may cause some people to stay clear of this work. However, if one looks beyond the shocking images, one must realise that the author's aim isn't merely to shock. The greatest strength of this novel lies in its ability to make us think about the values we wish to cultivate and represent in our lives, while it also prompts us to consider the consequences even our smallest, seemingly innocent lapses in morality can have, and their erosive effect on our character.
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on 5 October 2003
This book is strangely alive - cynical and detached, yet beneath it all you can hear a pulse. The style is something like Albert Camus meets Henry Miller - quite existentialist and seeing the world around us as essentially absurd. giant corporations and institutions misdirecting our lives to a ridiculous extent. i should also say that it is very funny and not for the "prudish"...
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on 3 February 2009
This book is lewd, strange, sinister, thought provoking, vivid, engaging and most of all: not for your Granny! If watching 'Eyes wide Shot' freaked you out, well then forget about 'Platform'. The plot is saturated with sexual references, sexual tension and sexual acts.

At times I was thinking if these were all removed, a 350 page book would perhaps be reduced to 40! So is there any substance to 'Platform' or is just soft porn with pseudo philosophical babbel?

I thought beneath the recurring sexual references there actually was a deeper and more meaningful story. This was of a man (Michel) trying to make sense of the world, his life and his meaning. Can he do this through lust, a loving relationship, a business challenge?

What's clear from the very beginning of the book is that a cliched holiday, with all it's shallow, stereotypical moments and cringe inducing interactions with fellow tourists certainly won't offer Michel anything he needs or interests him.

From the outset, it's clear he needs some sort of challenge that takes him outside of normality as normality pains him. This pitches him as an interesting character. In fact, one very strong facet of the book is character development. The author does a good job of bringing the reader very close up and personal with all the central characters by detailing very intimate details of their lifes, the sort of stuff only a very close friend would tell you. This makes both the characters and the story engaging.

The sexual saturation is boring at times, but overall the story's strong point besides character development is the subtle posing of some philosophical questions.

The book is certainly not the norm, if you're feeling in the mood for something different and are not easily offended, you might like it.
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on 23 February 2008
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 translates as Elementary Particles which makes much more sense of the actual content); Houellebecq is perhaps learning the writer's craft. He certainly followed my recommendation and developed his bent for comedy. In its way its quite a funny book. But that way is the way of darkness - it is a comedy in the same way as Dante's Inferno is a comedy! (Ok - I do know that its not really a legitimate comparison but I think folk will see what I'm getting at). The main ostensible subject is "Sex Tourism" - which is interesting, though hardly titillating the way Houellebecq tells it. The book is often billed as controvertial because it is seen as a defence of this activity. But there is, as one would expect given Houellebecq's philosophical antecedents, a deep ambivalence. Most people, I guess, having been informed, amused and having secretly experienced a little "frisson", would reject the whole idea with disgust. It seems at least arguable that this may be the writer's intention. In conclusion I feel this is a book worth reading and, as a result of reading it, I may well go on to read his next one.
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on 4 April 2011
The tale of the emperor's new clothes should be the starting point for anyone reading this book. Those who raise their voices of protest against the author, or see him as a hero, both simply act to bolster the reputation of a pretty poor and shallow novel. It's as if even the author can't be bothered to delve further than the surface veneer of professional ennui of his main character. I hope someone will eventually shout `he's not wearing any clothes!' That it will become clear there is no substance here.

Don't be fooled by comparisons with Camus - even Camus' worst is well ahead of this author's best.

If you want a comfortable read which touches on sex tourism, globalism, S&M, but really has nothing significant to say about any of these, this book will satisfy you. You'll probably enjoy the slight titillation - but it's a bit Mills & Boon touches on de Sade. I would neither recommend nor condemn it (I give it three stars because it's just average), but I can't imagine being enthused with a desire to read more of the author's work.
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on 2 June 2004
Having already read the tales of alienation that encapsulated 'Atomised', I guess I was hoping for much of the same with 'Platform' and I guess I got it. In 'Atomised' you get the feeling he's pulling a few punches but he is most definitely out to create an impact with Platform. He gets deep down into the pysche of the western man, highlighting perhaps what alot of them think deep down, but have been cowered into submission by the relentless onslaught of the empowered woman. His views on Islam are rather objectionable and perhaps his nihilistic viewpoint that informs the main characters can be somewhat annoying if you find that type of attitude grating, but all in all this book perfectly descrtibes the feelings of alienation that informs western adult society and all the dark places at their margins of thought. The description of the sex scenes within the book can be vividly pornographic at times, which some people may take objection to but again I think it hits the nail on the head in terms of what some western men may really think (if not expressing it in the public domain). A good read but not quite deserving of 5 stars due to the over-emphasis on pornographic description and slight Islamophobia. But I will be avidly awaiting his next release.
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on 8 January 2007
The main character in Platform is a man in his early forties who has not made much of his life so far and who observes society from the sidelines. During a holiday in Thailand he meets the woman of his dreams, Valerie, who works in tourism. Inspired by her, he invents a whole new form of tourism, a type of legalized sex tourism, which becomes an enormous success. Until the end of the book, when everything goes wrong and it also becomes clear why the main character is keeping such a distance from the world.

Michel Houellebecq uses the theme of this book to further expand his rather bleak, mechanistic and nihilistic view of society in general and in this case tourism in particular. I can imagine that some people will absolutely hate this book and the views that Houellebecq has, but I really enjoyed reading it. And it contains little pearls of observations such as: "If it wasn't for sex, what would life be? A pointless fight against rheumatism and tooth decay." And in the end, that says it all...
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on 25 March 2012
An absorbing read - but essentially male 'chick lit.' Romance, relationships, sex (from a very male perspective), exotic locations, then corporate board room 'glamour' in place of aspirational clothes and homes.
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on 28 January 2013
You don't read Houellebecq to be cheered and uplifted, but reading him really makes you think, and he holds a magnifying glass to modern society like few other writers. I only wish my French was good enough to read him in French. The only English-speaking writer I can think of that does the societal dissection things as well is Morton Bain.
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