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Ratner's Star [Paperback]

Don Delillo
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 17 1989 Vintage Contemporaries
One of DeLillo's first novels, Ratner's Star  follows Billy, the genius adolescent, who is recruited to live in obscurity, underground, as he tries to help a panel of estranged, demented, and yet lovable scientists communicate with beings from outer space. It is a mix of quirky humor, science, mathematical theories, as well as the complex emotional distance and sadness people feel. Ratner's Star demonstrates both the thematic and prosaic muscularity that typifies DeLillo's later and more recent works, like The Names (which is also available in Vintage Contemporaries).  

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"A mind-expanding trip to the finish line, and full of wit and slapstick as well." Washington Post Book World "DeLillo's early-career masterpiece . it's a dense, entertaining, mind-bending boomerang of a book that luxuriates in the language of math and science" L A Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

"A mind-expanding trip to the finish line, and full of wit and slapstick as well.... The areas of knowledge central to Ratner's Star are astronomy and mathematics. DeLillo develops them brilliantly, so that the expert can wallow while even the layman can splash happily in the shallows or pick up pebbles on the shore."--Washington Post Book World

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars typewriters? Dec 9 2003
ratner's star is an excellent look at a period in the life of billy, a boy of (it would seem) unequalled brilliance. he's brought to an institute for advanced study-type place to work on a problem that continually changes in its basic character. between billy's basic adolescent nature and his mental abilities, delillo has put together a thoroughly enjoyable story, and if you are the type to go wild with criticism, the book provides and exceptional playground, replete with swings of exceeding height.
now as a fun-type book, if you enjoyed the "calvinball" in the "calvin and hobbes," you'll love half-ball, and for fans of "deep thought," delillo's "space brain" provides nearly un-endurable humour (oh, wait, space brain's changed it's mind again. . .). the only way in which i'd fault delillo is that he (as many others have done/continue to do) is under the impression that mathematicians desire to win a nobel prize, but the truth is, not-just-a-few mathematicians see the nobel as a cute prize that pales in comparison to the fields medal. other than this (annoying) hindrence, ratner's star is a truly exceptional book. if you want lighter reading, go with "white noise," but ratner's star is most definitely its equal, and in some ways (that are directly related to how much the book demands of the reader and how much work the reader is willing to put into the book-as-art aspects (i.e. going after meanings not plainly displayed on the surface)) i think it exceeds all of the delillo i've read excepting underworld. basically, read this book, it'll make you're life better.
oh, that "typewriters?" things?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but rewarding Feb. 9 2001
The Names and Ratner's Star are probably Don DeLillo's two most difficult works. They're both dense, brainy and exacting, both laden with pages of abstract theory. In short, they are a long way from the funny, swiftly moving prose of White Noise, Players and Running Dog. Ultimately, though, because The Names is preoccupied with the nature and textures of language, it might be slightly easier for lovers of literature to enjoy. Ratner's Star, on the other hand, delves deeply in the heavy waters of space, time and complex mathematics. As someone who is scientifically and mathematically inept, I can't say I followed the more esoteric portions of the text, but I'm not sure that's the point. Rather, it seems to have been DeLillo's intention to deliberately lose the reader in order to illustrate that the sciences, while seeking to elucidate the wonders of the natural world, often lead us into heightened states of confusion. If you're thinking of reading Ratner's Star, prepare yourself for a challenge. Maybe not on the order of Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake, but difficult nonetheless, particularly in the context of current fiction, which is very often spectacularly undemanding. In terms of plot and narrative, this book deserves perhaps a three (much of it is formless and untethered, a far from the relatively airtight Libra and Underworld). But it is an exacting and complicated book that, like so much of DeLillo's best work, invites us to take a closer look at who we are and what we believe in. And for that it gets five stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great DeLillo for math/science fans July 6 2000
This is what DeLillo wrote after having spent a few years studying mathematics. It is a beautiful effort, albeit a bit different from much of his other work: no terrorists, no fear of death, and none of the characters is as memorable as the Gladney family from White Noise. It does, however, resemble White Noise is that it has the standard silly/almost-surreal professorial figures, and children wise beyond their years. DeLillo does show his Pynchonesque side, demonstrating thorough knowledge of math and physics; he is not just spouting catchphrases when he writes about these things.
Ratner's Star is mediocre DeLillo (which is still great!) for those not interested in math and science -- and perhaps top DeLillo for those who are interested in math or physics. Extra points for those readers who were intellectually precocious as kids: you will definitely identify with Billy, more or less.
The ending is wonderful, and I must say I didn't see it coming; although as soon as I read it, I thought "how could I not have seen it coming!" That is the mark of a well crafted novel.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A HEAVY-WEIGHT LITERARY TRIUMPH July 5 2000
The fundamental problem with Ratner's Star is Delillo's insistence with bombarding the reader in a deluge of menancingly technical language. Sure, he writes beautifully and as ever, his language is precise but it appears that in an attempt to gain recognition, he has forgotten the purpose of writing and instead decided to exhibit his skills with the English langauge. As a result of this, there is the ostensible lack of crystal-clear creativity that is present in his other works. Delillo left what he usually excels in and engaged in this apparently experimental book.
I feel inclined to say that I was left frustrated at times. There is so much fluidity and generous portions of classic Delillo in the first half, yet in an attempt to succeed this, the second half finds itself drowning in the abyss. The length of the book is also not totally justified when the almost non-existent plot is put into consideration.
Heart breaking also is the absence of his portrayals of the real world, what Delillo really does shine at. Departing from that field, we have here a slightly irritating mix of insane characters and the psychedelic combination of fantasy, mathematics and science. There is imagination here but it appears to be used in the wrong way.
If you like Delillo, you will cherish this weighty book, but at the same time you might walk away feeling cheated by this book whose art is so hard to define.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint of heart
For those looking for a bit of light reading, I would advise against this book. True, very little of DeLillo is easygoing, but this, his fourth novel, makes his others read as... Read more
Published on March 16 2003 by C. N. White
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun with math
I think this is one of Delillo's best, and one of the best books I've read in a while. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for books about mathematicians, and the caricatures... Read more
Published on July 30 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars what i know and what i show will hopefully flow
This is a most lovely book/thing. The contents/style is enchanting beyond compare. With poetry so nice it becomes unreal/fantastic, DeLillo shows us the human/spiritual somehow... Read more
Published on June 28 2000 by David Baird
3.0 out of 5 stars Far from DeLillo's best
Ratner's Star is one of those teasingly annoying cultural phenomena that arise when an artist you really like and admire does something you neither admire nor enjoy (other examples... Read more
Published on Dec 3 1999 by "lexo-2"
2.0 out of 5 stars Delillo's worst published effort
I could seriously argue that Delillo is America's greatest living author. This, however, does not prove it.
Published on Sept. 14 1999 by John Esther
5.0 out of 5 stars Ratner's Star tastes good and is good for you.
What can I say?Surreally funny.Exercise for your brain.The best characters you will find anywhere.
Published on May 31 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars Why use one word when you can use fifty?
If a book was ever written with more hype and less content, then God help you if you read it. Painfully drawn out, dawdling excruciatingly towards a cul-de-sac of utterly boring... Read more
Published on Jan. 2 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Novel Worth Checking Out
Don DeLillo fans should turn to this very fine novel after reading the more recent "White Noise and beyond" novels. Read more
Published on March 30 1998 by rmd
5.0 out of 5 stars DeLillo's funniest.
A hoot and a half: the main character, an adolescent astrophysics prodigy, is unique and immensely entertaining. His situation and surrounding cast of characters are preposterous. Read more
Published on Nov. 7 1997 by averre@artnet.net
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