This Bleeding City, By Alex Preston

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The Independent Culture

Charlie Wales, fresh from university, wins a job working as an analyst for a hedge fund. Soon he's carousing with Gordon Gekko types and falling out of contact with old friends, oblivious as the economy slides towards collapse.

The pre-crunch culture of excess should be fertile territory for biting satire, but This Bleeding City lacks teeth. It is an infuriatingly complacent novel. Charlie and his university chums are ennui-ridden middle-class lunkheads who seem to be under the impression that life boils down to a choice between making millions in high finance or tutoring inner-city kids. (An illustration of how divorced from reality they are: Charlie complains, without irony, about living in poverty, before stopping in at the Ritz for a drink.)

Preston seems to want to evoke sympathy for these people, to make us understand the pressure society places on them. But they are so deeply unpleasant, you never even begin to care.