Solar

December 7, 2014 - Comment

Michael Beard is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist (and compulsive overeater) whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions, and halfheartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. Meanwhile, Michael’s fifth marriage is floundering due to his incessant womanizing.

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Michael Beard is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist (and compulsive overeater) whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions, and halfheartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. Meanwhile, Michael’s fifth marriage is floundering due to his incessant womanizing. When his professional and personal worlds collide in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself for Michael to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and save the world from environmental disaster. But can a man who has made a mess of his life clean up the messes of humanity?
 
A complex novel that brilliantly traces the arc of one man’s ambitions and self-deception, Solar is a startling, witty, and stylish new work—Ian McEwan at his finest.
 

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Comments

Michael J. Ettner says:

“Someone, or everyone, would be disappointed. Nothing new there.” If you scan the large body of comments placed here, and if you track down the published reviews of major book critics, you’ll find that reactions to McEwan’s new novel have been — to use a word from the lexicon of the book’s physicist protagonist — polarized. Many reviewers, especially the British establishment critics, declared “Solar” a delightful work by a master, well worth your while. Others, especially on this side of the pond, vented their disappointment, perhaps best expressed by an online critic who headlined his review: “A Flabby Character Portrait.”With the verdict on the book’s merits a split decision, it doesn’t seem useful simply to add to the chorus of contradictory conclusions (“Yes, it’s brilliant!” “No, it’s a waste of your time!”). Instead, let me offer some guidelines for you to consider if you’re thinking of reading “Solar.”- Are you expecting an experience comparable to McEwan’s recent novels? If so, be forewarned that “Solar” is not…

"switterbug" Betsey Van Horn says:

Brilliant satire McEwan’s latest novel skewers fanatics, libertines, and the god-headed media, as well as taking an unapologetic stab at the politics and religiosity of 21st century science. He reveals the folly of doublethink, groupthink, and egomania in a ferocious satire of many-layered complexity. When you close the pages of the book, you are apt to appreciate it more as it settles into the parts of your brain that mingle literature with social commentary. The entertainment value is actually eclipsed by its brilliance, the dazzling rays reaching out to prior gems and reflecting an awful lot of sublime light. It’s cheeky, satirical, uncomfortable, and to some readers, it will be controversial.Our unsympathetic protagonist is Michael Beard. (I note that the name is no accident, a beard being a person that is used by someone else to cover something up, and Michael meaning someone who is like God.) Michael is a 50-something former Nobel laureate, resting on his fleshy laurels from…

Daffy Du says:

Entertaining satire I’ve spent the past 20+ years working at the margins of academia, currently work at a scientific research institute, and live with someone in the solar energy field, so when I read the blurb about Ian McEwan’s new novel, I couldn’t resist ordering it. Although I’d never read any of his books before, I knew his reputation, so I figured it would be worth the read.And by and large, it is, if only for his scathing satire of the scientific world, with all its egos, posturing and pretensions. I was mightily impressed not only with McEwan’s grasp of the pettiness, jealousy and dysfunction that are so prevalent among the uber-educated, but also with the extensive research that obviously went into his descriptions of alternative energy technologies and solar energy in particular.The catch, however, is that his protagonist, Nobel laureate Michael Beard, is a thoroughly repellent character, and what I found laugh-out-loud funny in the beginning became increasingly tedious…

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