A few years back, French writer Michel Houellebecq published a novel about the sex-tourism trade called Platform. It was the sharpest and most challenging of Houellebecq's novels, ultimately comparing international sex slavery with terrorism. Scott Spencer's newest novel, Willing, covers a lot of the same ground that Platform does, in vastly different ways.

Avery, Willing's main character, is a journalist who discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him. A wealthy uncle offers Avery tickets for a very expensive international group-travel package complete with prostitutes and fancy hotels. Avery pitches the trip to a publisher, and earns a lucrative book deal, granting him the (very) tentative moral high ground of an undercover journalist.

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There are things that Spencer does very well here: The description of a brutal attack in Iceland is deliciously ambiguous, stripping the scene of right, wrong, or reason, resulting in little more than a pointless collision of meat.

But a good-old-fashioned American sense of right and wrong come back into play. Whereas Houellebecq implicates his readers, Spencer pulls back in order to save the squeamish from having to see too much.