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Ratner's Star Paperback – December 1, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A mind-expanding trip to the finish line, and full of wit and slapstick as well..." Washington Post Book World "DeLillo's early-career masterpiece ... it's a dense, entertaining, mind-bending boomerang of a book that luxuriates in the language of math and science" L A Times

From the Inside Flap

One of DeLillo's first novels, Ratner's Star  follows Billy, the genius adolescent, who is recruited to live in obscurity, underground, as he tries to help a panel of estranged, demented, and yet lovable scientists communicate with beings from outer space. It is a mix of quirky humor, science, mathematical theories, as well as the complex emotional distance and sadness people feel. Ratner's Star demonstrates both the thematic and prosaic muscularity that typifies DeLillo's later and more recent works, like The Names (which is also available in Vintage Contemporaries).   --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage/Ebury (a Division of Random (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009992840X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099928409
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,922,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Don DeLillo is the author of fourteen novels, including Falling Man, Libra and White Noise, and three plays. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Jerusalem Prize. In 2006, Underworld was named one of the three best novels of the last twenty-five years by The New York Times Book Review, and in 2000 it won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the most distinguished work of fiction of the past five years.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bryan Charles on February 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Names and Ratner's Star are probably Don DeLillo's two most difficult works. They're both dense, brainy and exacting, both laden with pages of abstract theory. In short, they are a long way from the funny, swiftly moving prose of White Noise, Players and Running Dog. Ultimately, though, because The Names is preoccupied with the nature and textures of language, it might be slightly easier for lovers of literature to enjoy. Ratner's Star, on the other hand, delves deeply in the heavy waters of space, time and complex mathematics. As someone who is scientifically and mathematically inept, I can't say I followed the more esoteric portions of the text, but I'm not sure that's the point. Rather, it seems to have been DeLillo's intention to deliberately lose the reader in order to illustrate that the sciences, while seeking to elucidate the wonders of the natural world, often lead us into heightened states of confusion. If you're thinking of reading Ratner's Star, prepare yourself for a challenge. Maybe not on the order of Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake, but difficult nonetheless, particularly in the context of current fiction, which is very often spectacularly undemanding. In terms of plot and narrative, this book deserves perhaps a three (much of it is formless and untethered, a far from the relatively airtight Libra and Underworld). But it is an exacting and complicated book that, like so much of DeLillo's best work, invites us to take a closer look at who we are and what we believe in. And for that it gets five stars.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Yaumo Gaucho on July 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is what DeLillo wrote after having spent a few years studying mathematics. It is a beautiful effort, albeit a bit different from much of his other work: no terrorists, no fear of death, and none of the characters is as memorable as the Gladney family from White Noise. It does, however, resemble White Noise is that it has the standard silly/almost-surreal professorial figures, and children wise beyond their years. DeLillo does show his Pynchonesque side, demonstrating thorough knowledge of math and physics; he is not just spouting catchphrases when he writes about these things.
Ratner's Star is mediocre DeLillo (which is still great!) for those not interested in math and science -- and perhaps top DeLillo for those who are interested in math or physics. Extra points for those readers who were intellectually precocious as kids: you will definitely identify with Billy, more or less.
The ending is wonderful, and I must say I didn't see it coming; although as soon as I read it, I thought "how could I not have seen it coming!" That is the mark of a well crafted novel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Richard K. Weems on December 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must admit that this book, even after two stabs at it, didn't thrill me the way other DeLillo novels can, and I did feel as though I were reading something more by Thomas Pynchon. Many of DeLillo's finest work seems to work on the exploration and twisting of its own metaphor, but filtered through extraordinary but still accessible characters, people who feel both rooted in and confused by the complexities of the world behind them. _Ratner's Star_ seems to want to delve in such a way, but through a situation far more absurdist.

Billy Twilling is a young math Nobel laureate who is pulled into a think tank that bombards him on all sides with eccentrics, from fellow mathematicians to the custodians. Yet many of these characters become redundant through their lack of introduction and propensity for monologue. Many moments of the book read like Kafka and Michio Kaku co-writing an episode of _Dragnet_. Twilling's main job is to decipher a coded message received from outer space, but of course his progress is hindered and his job outright disregarded by many in Field Experiment One. Eventually, the book breaks down in plotline and form itself when Twilling is pulled underground into a new project that is off the charts.

There are many delights in this book--Twilling himself is a wonderfully concise and hilariously unhumorous boy. DeLillo shows his skill at even comic timing on the page. The scenes with a mathematic precurser who has banished himself to a hole in the ground and the meeting of the esteemed Ratner himself during a torch ceremony are wonderful, yet I didn't find the book as a whole challenging with its exploration of metaphor as DeLillo does in later books. There is a wide expanse of characters, but the ecentricities become the focus of the book, not the crucial ideas, and the eccentricities become a little formulaic at times, even in their seeming randomness.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Jones on May 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
The novel is a thing of great power and beauty, not limited to the works that populate the "best seller" list. Unfortunately, in America, we have been conditioned to expect instant gratification and understanding, whereas truly great works of art require the attention and concentration of a great reader.

Ratner's Star is, according to Mr. Delillo himself, his favorite of all his novels. The reason for this, I can only imagine, is a true sense of pride in having finished it and accomplished something so dense and difficult...and difficult it is. This is not easy reading. The language is a conglomeration of mathematics and science, of speculation and spiritual dimension.

This is a novel by a relatively "new" writer (at the time) wishing to flex his intellectual muscles and perhaps prove to the world at large that he is a voice to be reckoned with in the future of American writing. Cormac Mccarthy also did this with his incredible novel "Suttree."

Many reviews I read seem to expect something from a novel: a very specific and easy to understand plot, wonderful characters, and maybe even some twists and turns. But true literature challenges the reader to step beyond these confines and give himself over to ideas and turns of phrase. This novel is like a dream in which all is understood while in the midst of it, step away for too long and you will lose all sense of time and place.

Of course, anyone reading Delillo is already aware of how he writes, his work is not tailor made for the ADD generation. His work takes time and patience to appreciate, just like great paintings hanging in a museum, to truly recognize the genius at work you can't just walk through the room.
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