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Solar is a hilarious, intellectual romp for our times. It's a satire that aims its shots in many directions: at the narrow worlds of academia and scientific research; at the New Age/hug-a-tree/love-can-save-the-world philosophy; at the idealism of the young and the cynicism of their elders; at the wheeling and dealing behind corporate American enterprise; at the inexplicable nature of love and its counterpart, lust.
Michael Beard, a Nobel prize-winning physicist, has been sitting on his laurels for years, working half-heartedly for a British energy center that sees wind energy as the future, spending more time mocking the "ponytails" (the young post-grad physicists who work under him) than developing new theories or resources. In his spare time, Beard has lumbered his way through five marriages and numerous affairs, and his penchant for alcohol, beef, pancakes, and crisps have added more weight to his physical profile than his professional one.
But then things start to happen--call them accidents or fate or coincidences, or just plain opportunities. And Michael Beard is there to pick up the pieces and use them to his best advantage.
I knew how dark McEwan could be, but I had no idea that he could be quite so funny. Several of the scenes, including the one on the Paddington train alluded to by others, had me actually laughing out loud.
I was delighted to find an interview of McEwan by his editor at the end. In it, he discussed his research process and the fact that he has already been approached by a number of physicists who claim they know upon whom he based the character of Beard (he claims it wawas his own creation, but that it's probably a "good thing" there are so many likely Beards out there rather than just one).
Solar is a smart, funny, and perceptive novel. Don't expect it to be another Atonement or On Chesil Beach; McEwan is attempting something entirely different here, and you will have to
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
I noticed that many of the readers who hated this book gave up on it a couple of hours into it. I was ready to do so at a certain point in the book when something horrific is implied to have happened to the main character. I was disgusted and offended, but then came to realize that this was part of McEwan's humor. Very male humor, I might add. I am so happy I stuck with the book. It is smart and at times absolutely hilarious! The main character is not exactly likeable, I agree, but that's not the point! McEwan gets into some current debates about science and that political rhetoric that uses science to support one side or the other. Some very astute observations here, and well told, both by McEwan and by his reader, whose deadpan style is perfect for the genre.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful