Sunday, May 20, 2012
Nobel Laureate for Physics Michael Beard is one of the least pleasant protagonists I've encountered. He's a glutton, he's self-centered, he's arrogant, he's devious. He rides on an early achievement and uses it to move from sinecure to sinecure, enjoying a rather lavish life style. He cheats on his spouses and on his lovers. He covers up a murder and steals the work of a colleague in order to get wealthy from patents involving synthetic photosynthesis--while all along caring not a whit for the environment. The novel is peculiarly episodic, and feels more like three novellas stitched together than a cohesive fiction. As always, McKewan's prose is gorgeous and pulls you along even though the work is not up to the standard of Atonement. I thought the same thing about Saturday. McKewan must have read (re-read) Confederacy of Dunces recently--this is the same type of satire, minus the belly laughs. But Beard gets his comeuppance, which provides a measure of satisfaction. I'm a bit puzzled as to what McKewan hopes to skewer in this satire. Environmental scientists? Complacent bastards coasting through life? The current state of Western civilization? The biggest point of Solar seems to be that assholes are a clean, renewable resource.