03 March 2012

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I've been sort of procrastinating writing this review. I was nervous about reading Atlas Shrugged to begin with, and then to be reading it for a client made it worse. I will say I wish I'd been able to take more time with it. It's the kind of book that is better appreciated when it's taken slowly and studied more deeply. Unfortunately, I was on a deadline, so I did what I could with the time I had. I would like to think that maybe, someday, I will pick it up again and read it more slowly, but I probably won't.

The basic story of Atlas Shrugged is that the American economy is imploding. The government, which is enacting policies based on socialist ideas, has too much control, and their attempts at fixing the economic problems actually creates more. As this is going on, the best industrialists are retiring and simply vanishing, usually when they are needed the most. And at the heart of all this turmoil is the cryptic expression, said with a shrug, "Who is John Galt?"

Prior to reading Atlas Shrugged, I knew basically nothing about Ayn Rand or her philosophy, and I'm glad I didn't research it prior to reading. I disagree with her philosophy, as presented in the book, and I think if I'd known more before reading, it would have been much more of a struggle to get through than it already was. As I got into the story, I did do some research into Rand's life, works, and philosophy, which ultimately helped me understand the story better as I read.

I will say I appreciate the book. For what she was trying to do, I like how the story and characters are crafted. She draws on a lot of myth, and her characters and the story itself have an almost epic/mythic quality to them, which I think was beneficial for elevating the story and getting her point across. The strike in the story is the type of event that, within the world of the story, will be a legendary event, and the way Rand tells it emphasizes that.

However, I didn't like the story. I don't like Rand's use of extremes in the economy and government to make her philosophical points. I understand why she did it, but I don't like the story because of it. Life is not that black and white, and I had a problem with willing suspension of disbelief because of it. If she'd taken it further (a la "Harrison Bergeron"), it would have worked for me.

I feel like Atlas Shrugged is one of those books that people should give a chance, even if they don't like it. (Or don't finish it.) I'm glad I read it, even though I didn't like it. And now that I'm done with it, I'm glad to be moving on to other titles.

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