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Solar

3.5 out of 5 stars 257 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 11 hours and 50 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Random House AudioBooks
  • Audible.com Release Date: March 18, 2010
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007NY6EZ6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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 twenty-two years ago, where he stood on the shoulders of Einstein and proposed a scientific "Conflation Theory" that was trailblazing at the time. Now, he tours around the globe giving lectures and consults for a large fee, and he sits idly as a member of a board at a center for renewable energy in the UK. His main pursuit is women, and he pursues them with -aholic depravity. As the novel opens, his fifth marriage is falling apart due to his infidelities. But this time, his wife got the last word by having some side dishes for herself and leaving him labeled as the cuckold.

Michael is a bozo with a brain. He is selfish, hideous, immoderate, and amoral.
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30 Comments 233 of 258 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
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 cut from the same cloth. In the best of his recent works, McEwan provides readers with the supreme pleasure of a plot and characters that fully seize your consciousness and sympathy. He composes set pieces with such fine craftsmanship that you forget you are engaged in the act of reading. You lose awareness of the author's guiding hand. These are the moments readers long for: being pulled forward by a frictionless, seemingly unmediated flow of story and emotion. The opening chapter of "Enduring Love" and parts of "Saturday" achieve this magical state. Many readers, myself included, experienced this phenomenon most memorably amid the sweep of "Atonement". So a red flag must be raised this time: if you pick up "Solar," do not expect to enjoy anything similar.
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3 Comments 161 of 177 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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 as the book wore on. In tone, Solar is vaguely reminiscent of Tom Sharpe's books, only darker and a whole lot more literary. A brilliant physicist in his younger days, who has been coasting for years on his one big breakthrough and the Nobel it earned him, Beard is a compulsive philanderer whose fifth marriage is on the rocks. Amoral and utterly selfish, Beard engages in a series of self-serving and self-destructive actions that grow increasingly predictable throughout the book, until the chickens come home to roost in the final segment. (It's worth noting that contrary to the promotional blurb, only the final third of the book is set in New Mexico. And a small gripe: McEwan could have used a little minor editing to eliminate the Britishisms in the dialogue of his American characters.
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