Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Review of SOLAR


I almost warmed to the novel's main character, Nobel Laureate hedonist British physicist Michael Beard, as I am a retired physicist whose closest approach to a Nobel Prize was seeing a video of one presentation. McEwan has made the physics plausible and the main character nearly believable, nearly risible, yet sadly lacking in non-scientific merit. A sloppy, selfish cad. Some others in the book, including a pack of self-absorbed artist-activists, come off little better.

The book makes the case for the peril of climate change, after giving the skeptics some say. As individuals and in groups, mankind is portrayed as selfish and uncontrolled in the main. The once-brilliant Dr. Beard is no one's hero but not wholly unloved, and thus he is perhaps redeemable.

This sometimes funny, mostly downbeat book kept my interest, and at no point did I roll my eyes at the science. I disliked the $12 price of the Kindle, however, and I like my novels to be both compelling, which this was, and ultimately upbeat, which this wasn't.

As an antidote to the book, a chaser after that unpleasant drink, I offer the following poem from Robert Frost, equally pessimistic, but at least beautiful (its title is its last line):

"Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief.
So Dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay."

That feels better.


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