Is the whore-loving, Muslim-baiting 44-year-old novelist who has stamped his name on a Euro-brand of millennial lassitude really 'hunting big game' – as Julian Barnes wrote about his last novel, Atomised? Or is he cynically potting the feeble rabbits of post-Sixties liberal piety to thrill the kind of jaded reader who laps up anything that smacks of 'political incorrectness'? ... Platform opts for droll and deadpan satire (on tourism, consumerism, the jargon of marketing) rather than mystical SF. Yet it also depicts the alienated trippers who seek paid-for oblivion in Thai or Cuban arms as people sick of life – drones and parasites for whom 'the idea of the uniqueness of the individual is nothing more than a pompous absurdity' ... This element of Houellebecq's vision – in which our frantic pursuit of happiness becomes a quest for extinction – takes aim for the biggest intellectual quarry any novelist could find in their sights now.
'It’s not up to me to invent or adopt new attitudes or new affinities with the world,' Michel declares at the beginning of the book. It is a tribute to the unvarying insistence with which Houellebecq presents his peculiar dis-affinity with the world that, 200 pages later, any ethical reservations the reader might have had at the outset have pretty well fallen away ... Michel’s glimpse of lifelong happiness becomes a measure of the depths of the misery to which he will soon be violently returned. The novel ends in resignation and despair, but along the way it accommodates a skewed and lyrical vision of romantic longing and fulfillment.
A grown man, Houellebecq reads like an adolescent. Alternately timid and aggressive, solemn, hormonal, posturing, helpless, Houellebecq tosses stones through the windows of European polite speech and attitudes, then runs away ... The story works in its preposterous way because we are not engaging with reality. Too inhibited to address the reader directly, Houellebecq employs a series of ready-made literary styles: television game-show, holiday brochures, the Guide du Routard, genuine and pastiche social science, feuilleton historiography, the business press ... Remembering, no doubt, that he is offending against the rules of speech in polite society, Houellebecq brings on a pair of Muslim characters to criticise their religion and then depart ... For the smug British reader, Platform will seem nothing so much as a resurrection of the old anti-liberal, anti-semitic, anti-Dreyfusard tradition in French thought and society.
Some critics have said that Houellebecq has written a novel of ideas -- a reliable way to scare off potential readers if ever there was one. What he has written is a novel of provocations -- sexual, cultural, political, racial. And even if you find half of them too simple, even when the philosophizing and theorizing that attend them grow tiresome, they have a hard rational core that demands they at least be grappled with ... The frequency of the sex in Platform is true to the burst of erotic energy that accompanies the beginning of any relationship ... There is irreducible truth in Platform and the satisfaction of seeing an author realize large ambitions without sacrificing his story.
For most of Houellebecq’s characters, the reason for living, if it comes at all, takes the form of a woman’s pelvis. This goes double in Platform, whose central characters are promoters of, and enthusiastic participants in, the sex-tourism industry ... In Houellebecq’s accounting, global capitalism has exported material wealth and spiritual poverty. The emptying out of the West’s spiritual and cultural resources in pursuit of sheer economic might has made everyone richer and their lives more luxurious — but also increasingly inhumane.
If it sounds like pornography, it often reads like it, but there is more to Platform than porn. Amid the cynicism, self-loathing and hermetic fucking, love emerges ... There is much polemic here, and much about race and religion, but sex is the theme which, as far as any in this rambling work, pulls the strings together. This is a book which subordinates the clash of civilisations (uncivilisations, in Platform’s view) to sexual longing ... Houellebecq’s earnest wish to idealise sex as a balm for Western ills leads him to make some dodgy narrative moves ... Houellebecq’s books are not as good as everybody else’s. When they are good, they are as good as nobody else’s. To those who prefer to watch good athletes trying and failing to jump over a bar set too high, rather than watching mediocre athletes hop over an easy height, I commend Platform. It has enough of the curt wit and cruel, aphoristic truth seen in his previous books...to make it worth reading to the end ...
From the famous, or infamous, Houellebecq: a pale imitation of himself at his scandalous and probing best ... Posturing, silly, sophomoric—though the glib Houellebecq is good at trying to make you think otherwise.
Controversially and unsuccessfully charged in France under hate crimes laws, Houellebecq insinuates anti-Islamic themes ('Every time that I heard that a Palestinian terrorist, or... a pregnant Palestinian woman, had been gunned down in the Gaza Strip, I felt a quiver of enthusiasm....') into a rather simple love story in his most recent novel ... His general thesis is that a liberal, hypocritical elite is presiding over the spiritual bankruptcy of the West and retreating from the one Enlightenment idea that is still valid: hedonism ... Again like Rand, Houellebecq somehow produces an effect of myth in spite of his clumsy language and contrived plots. This is an important book, a rare must-read for anyone who wants to take the measure of contemporary European discontents.