Sunday, October 2, 2011

Solar by Ian McEwan ****

Popular psychology is littered with theories correlating business success with various conditions from Asperger's to sociopathy. Ian McEwan's latest book, Solar, offers a fictional version of these theories. The protagonist, Nobel laureate Micheal Beard, follows in the tradition of Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov (who my illiterate spell checker wants me to replace with Kalashnikov of AK-47 fame) - intelligent, self-obsessed and amoral.

This book is a cautionary tale, so expect Michael Beard to meet a tragic ending. While the dust jacket advertises this as a "darkly satirical" novel, my experience with entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley found the story to be closer to the truth than the author realized or was willing to admit. Especially revealing is Michael Beard's moral gymnastics balancing his accomplishments against the litter of damaged human lives left in his wake.

Note to Science Fiction readers. This is book is perilously close to being SF with its plot dependence on quantum physics, global warming, and speculative approaches to solar energy. Of course, the publisher prefers 'darkly satirical' to 'science fiction', as the latter severely limits the book's financial potential. Read this one and nominate it for a Hugo.

If you enjoy hyper-intelligent psychopaths, and who doesn't, this is a good choice.

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