My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Ayn Rand’s stated intention with Atlas Shrugged was to explore her own philosophical ideas about life and human existence and the “ideal man” in novel form. As a college Philosophy major I was intrigued by the idea of a novel intended to flesh out new philosophical thinking.
Ayn Rand’s style is beautiful and her writing is excellent, but the characters come off as too specifically drawn and singularly focused to be believed. Each of them embodies an ideal rather than being “particularly” real. The result is none of them feel like people you might run into anywhere in everyday life. While I could see some the emerging themes being explored within each character, as reader of contemporary fiction, I prefer my characters to be tangible.
Ayn Rand demonstrates a keen and insightful understanding of human rationality and her characters are equally self-perceptive and self-aware. Nevertheless, they often lack the ability to understand the motivation behind the ways other characters think and act. While her exploration of character insights are eerily perceptive, each character’s continual rational analysis of their every experience gives the impression they are each navigating the overall story in isolation, reacting to the actions of the other characters, but never really connecting with them.
While the strength and beauty of the writing carries the reader along from page to page (an essential ingredient of a 1,200 page work) this work feels more like an intellectual exercise, albeit a very well written one, than like a story. In the end, my commitment to the story itself didn’t last the full 1,200 pages and I ended up putting this one aside.