Book Review: ATLAS SHRUGGED, by Ayn Rand

Give her several (hundred) pages to get going. I assure you, though, that once she does, Ayn Rand will get the little gears of your head grinding--to read such a thought-heavy book can be exhausting.

All I'd ever heard about this book was that it was about capitalism, which sounded terribly boring, until I actually considered the possibilities of a novel about capitalism--there can't be too many of them around, can there? I hadn't heard of any others that sided with the big tycoon, so reading ATLAS SHRUGGED was a continual challenge to the stereotypes that I, growing up in the liberal northwest, have come to accept as fact (yuck). While I can't claim to have found any of the characters completely likeable, they were fascinating, and eventually I came to admire them, which is definately something.

Rand's writing is every bit as concrete as her ideas; every gesture and nuance, every tone of voice is described in such exacting detail that what each character is thinking and what sort of person they are is plainly visible at all times. However, 1,000+ pages of this can grow old, and fast. Every scene is drawn out, but well done.

After a while it becomes clear that every conversation is serving Rand's personal philosophy (Objectivism), and at times ATLAS runs dangerously close to "preachy." I found myself skimming some of the larger passages about "living for one's own happiness," "earned rewards," blah blah blah, but though I didn't necessarily agree with everything Rand had to say (because this is, of course, a book with something to say), I applaud her for saying something so fearlessly different.

What got to me eventually was the unbearable consistency of Rand's characters--because though they were many-layered and very original, they got to be irritatingly perfect. To see these impeccably finished characters have exactly the right response to every situation got a little, well, boring, and as the book went on (and on, and on) I kept hoping that something would happen to shake their undying, absolute belief in themselves--just for a change of scene, really. But, without ruining anything big, suffice it to say I was disappointed. As I closed the book I was forced to acknowledge that, however daring Rand's characters, the book was not about them at all--it was about Rand's "personal morality." I felt slightly cheated.

However! It really is a good read, the story being quite unpredictable and not at all what I expected. Those of you into really philosophical reads (think Daniel Quinn's Ishmael) will enjoy it, I think, and anyone 100% dead-set against The Man should read it as an educational venture. To open your eyes to how the other side lives.

(Should you find yourself feeling bogged down by the long sentences, weighty pauses and heady philosophy, take an afternoon off and read Hemingway's Old Man & The Sea. It's refreshing, I promise.)


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