Houellebecq remains a very difficult writer to assess: a giant amongst pygmies, or a sensationalist fraud? He combines the misanthropy of Céline with the dystopian futurism of J G Ballard and the bad-tempered sex of Philip Roth. He is often lacking in subtlety, but can sometimes, as in the breathtaking epilogue to his last translated novel, Atomised, be one of the most extraordinary writers of our time.
Atomised aimed to be nothing less than an account of the abolition of man. Platform is a lesser novel, although just as long – maybe too long. Houellebecq does love to prick those liberal pieties, and sometimes this can seem predictable, adolescent. Liberal piety assumes that sex tourism is a