Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book Review: 'Solar' by Ian McEwan

"But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;" -- 1 Corinthians 1:27 (NKJV)

I suspect that Solar could become a 21st century classic from the perspective of the 22nd century. We live in days of extreme worship for celebrities, secular learning, new technologies, and self-indulgence. Undoubtedly, the pendulum will eventually swing away from such things, as it always does. As a result, it's hard to see this story now as being a serious critique of society while living in the midst of such a careless world. I apologize for my own myopia in this sense.

I thought that the portrait of Michael Beard rang very true in terms of many people I've known who have earned fame and honor at a young age for some knowledge breakthrough. I personally would have found the book a lot funnier if it had been based in the nonsense that goes on around the Nobel Prize for economics rather than for physics.

Mr. McEwan did a fine job of revealing Beard's capability for self-deception by slowly revealing how much self-justification was involved in Beard's self-image.

The book's main problem is that it feels over the top, more like slapstick satire than rapier-wit satire. I expected something a little more subtle.

But the book made me laugh, caused me to squirm, led me to self-examine my own failings (of which there have been and continue to be many), and to appreciate more fundamentally why we need God's grace to overcome our sinful natures. That's a lot to gain from a satire.

Nice work, Mr. McEwan!

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Donald Mitchell. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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