3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In case this is your first encounter with this book, It is a fresh story but a continuation to Ayn Rand's philosophy that started out with books like "We the living" where she new something was wrong but could not put her finger on it. She progressed to books as "The Fountainhead" where she could describe the problem quite well. Now in "Atlas Shrugged she has come up with a plausible answer to the problem. In essence your head can work without your hands yet your hands can not work without your head.
The story is not unique but it still holds you attention. The world is becoming more socialized and it is harder for individuals to make an impact without having a multitude of parasites on their back. Some chose to fight, others chose to ignore, some do not have a clue as to what is happening. The world seems to be gearing down is just coincidence or is there some one taking a hand in it. "Who is John Galt?"
I can tell you of my experience with the book. I must have been a late bloomer or just unlucky, because I did not come across "Atlas shrugged" until I was 20 years old. I was in the military and needed some reading material. My younger sister sent me the book. It looks just a little thick to me but I started reading, and reading and reading. I do not know if it was the story or the clarity of thought. Now I saw everything in a new or different light. It felt weird to see the newspapers and politics paralleling the book.
I was in New York (West Point) at the time and three things stood out to this day. The was a public service announcement on the TV "The law says that an apartment owner can not charge more than 30% of what you make" and at the same time the apartment buildings were closing down. The postal carriers went on strike and the military had to deliver the mail. That winter the snowplow drivers went on strike. When the strike was over the snowplows were missing. They found them the next summer in an empty lot.
There is nothing quite as convincing as watching the world and book parallel. I have mellowed out some sense then. However, I really think that this book should be read by high school where it would have maximum impact of one's train of thought.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2004
An old lie about this novel is cropping up again in some of the reviews below, and readers considering whether or not to buy and read *Atlas Shrugged* should not be fooled by this lie.
Critics who don't like the novel's politics charge that the author (Ayn Rand) was, in this novel, advocating the murder of her opponents. This is the reverse of the truth - a "Big Lie" on the scale of a Goebbels whopper.
Here's an example. One reviewer writes that in *Atlas Shrugged* "the bulk of the human race [is murdered] so that an ultra-talented, atheistic cabal can inherit the world." He then speaks of "the resultant society of mass-murderers."
The truth is that the novel shows its heroes persecuted for years by statists - fascist/communist types who destroy freedom at the point of a gun and send the country (and the world) down the drain. In response, the heroes do no violence to the villains. They don't lift a hand against them. Instead, they withdraw to a secret valley where they can no longer be harmed. As a result, their talents are no longer available for the villains to take advantange of and the villains' society and government collapses. (The resulting state is described as being akin to the "chaos" of pre-industrial China.) Just after this happens, the heroes return to rebuild and their rights are better appreciated.
Now, to believe that this story is an advocacy of *murder* is the same as believing that standing up to crooks is "robbery." After all - this so-called argument runs - not allowing crooks to steal what you have is the same as taking it from them. If there were such a thing as vampires, the Vampire Lobby would holler that people who resisted them are guilty of "murder" - because vampires die without the blood they obtain by violence.
Bullies are deprived of "self-esteem" when their victims stand up to them. More power to the victims, I say.
Would you accuse the opponents of slavery in the 1800s of mass-murder for "trying to starve the South" - since cotton (which was picked by slaves) was the basis of the South's economy, and without slaves the economy would collapse and people would go hungry? Thought not.
The amazing irony of the lie about ~murder~ being told about *Atlas Shrugged* is that it's the novel's villains who are violent, coercive, murderering - while the heroes practice only non-violent resistance. In fact, the climax of the story is when the villains have the main hero strapped to a torture machine, trying to force him to join the government and become a dictator! (So that their government would be preserved.)
(One hero, Ragnar, does steal back what governments stole from the heroes, which involves gun battles at sea. But he is an exception among the heroes - and he places all the enemy crews in lifeboats before he destroys their ships!)
In short: the critics of *Atlas Shrugged* are accusing non-violent resisters of murder. The robbed are being called the robbers. The good are being called evil. That's why I call this lie a "Big Lie" - a lie so stupid it just might work. Don't let it work with you.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2004
As noted above, Atlas Shrugged is the "second most influential book for Americans today" after the Bible, according to a joint survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, gives you a good starting reference on how enduring the story is, decades after publishing.
This is one of the few books I have ever read multiple times. The first couple times as just a great novel, then as societal commentary. So I guess both need to be addressed in a review.
As a novel: The story follows Dagny Taggart, executive of a railroad as she struggles, along with other achievers, to succeed while the bulk of the human race stands idle. Eventually, the achievers start disappearing and the resultant society of "looters" begins to fail on a grand scale, without a system of work ethics or morals to guide them.
Good character development in the leads, supporting characters are numerous and provide ideas and contrasts more than anything. Provides examination of complex issues, and raised a lot of thought provoking questions. The only downside to the book is the overly long speech by a lead character at the end, otherwise moves along quickly for its' size.
As a commentary on society: The storyline parallels today's America to a point, as we become more and more of a welfare state and a society of self-described victims who don't take personal responsibility for our choices to chain-smoke, overeat, etc, etc.
I recommend it as a novel, regardless of your take on the philosophical portion because it has a great epic storyline. An even more satisfying read if you are a self-starter or small-businessperson type who has dealt with government bureaucrats and assorted hangers-on.
on May 5, 2004
I have nothing to say for or against Rand's philosophy, but I have a lot to say against this book. There's unsubtle, there's undisguised propaganda, and then there's Atlas Shrugged.
I didn't think this before I picked up the book. Yes, from the beginning, the worldview is completley one-dimensional and Rand admits no possibilty of any other ideas having merit, but I had expected that from having reading The Fountainhead. There came a passage in the middle of the book, though, which just made me _stop_ and reread it a couple times. It describes a train wreck, caused, of course, by shoddy workmanship and laziness, in which all of the passengers on the train are killed. Rand as narrator says something like: "You may believe that victims of accidents have no responsibilty for their deaths. However, the passengers on this train..." and she goes on the list why some of the passengers on that train _deserved to die_, namely because they weren't proper objectivists.
Am I the only one who thinks that's just slightly objectionable?
I almost never get offended, and I'm not one to snap at authors for being insensitive or un-p.c.
But _holding accident victims responsible for their own deaths because of philosophical shortcomings_ seems to cross a line.
I found The Fountainhead readable (and I'm giving this book two stars instead of one) because of the sheer energy and conviction which Rand communicates through her work. It's obvious that she cares very deeply about her mission. It's difficult for the reader to work up the same enthusiasm, though.
on April 19, 2004
Well this is a 1000 page novel that could easily have been 300. You know from the backcover of the novel all that will happen up to page 650, and you can guess the end from there.
Rand's voice and idea that collectivism was more brutal and inhuman than competition is interesting and valid, but I wonder why she tried to masquerade what is clearly a political manifesto behind a character story. Her characters are horrible from any artistic standpoint, they are inhuman themselves. The novel's view of humanity seems to be that you are either a useless, whining slob or a perfect independent specimen (note how all "bad" people are ugly, and usually fat). No middle. By the way I would love to hear one historical example of a genius inventor/administrator/financier/etc that Rand makes some 50 characters into. I can only assume she meant the story to be an allegory, but it is far to long for an allegory; and far to inhuman for a novel.
Even thought I agree in many aspects with Rand's thought I would truly wish for the novel to be more compact and less repetitious. This could truly have been another 1984 if it were 300 pages long instead.
The most excruciating moments of the novel seem to be when her superficial idealized (or demonized) characters discuss love or try to have an emotion. Other than that the ideas of truly meritocratic system of values is interesting (specially coming from the 50s), and for all its failed characterization the prose moves at a reasonable speed (although it goes nowhere at a reasonable speed most of the time). Sadly the fact that some comments on Amazon mention the "lack of a moral system" indicates how perhaps even 1000 pages of discussion wasn't enough to penetrate some pre-conceived ideas which she wished to challenge.
on April 3, 2004
Book Review: "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand
A POWERFUL BOOK THAT DEFINED A POLITICAL PHILOSOPHYAND INFLUENCED INFLUENTIAL MINDS
Review by Steven Travers
Published in 1957 after years in the works, Ayn Rand's magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged" is one of the most influential novels in history. It, and its author, have been vilified and deified. Reviewing this book is as challenging as it was reading all 1168 of its pages. "Atlas Shrugged" is truly a "piece of work." It is a triumph of philosophy, much more so than the quintessential "great American novel." The greatness of this book is in its ideas more so than its literary value. Rand is not a writer on par with Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, or Thomas Wolfe. However, she is a visionary, like her hero, Aristotle. Her fans are fans of her vision, not just her words, and she has spawned millions of them over the years.
"Atlas Shrugged" was Ronald Reagan's favorite novel. It was the most influential book William F. Buckley, Jr. ever read. Obviously, this gives away its premise, which is conservative in nature and therefore anathema to liberals and the literary establishment they control. "Atlas Shrugged" and Rand herself were shoved into second-tier status by college professors and bookstore chains, but long before talk radio, she proved that conservatives win in the marketplace of ideas. Her works have been international best sellers for decades. Clubs, forums, seminars, web sites, and chat rooms devoted to Rand have given her legions of loyal supporters a chance to ask and get answers to the many, many questions that her novels have inspired. For years, Rand toured the country, delighting audiences who seemed to literally worship her. Following her own novel, "The Fountainhead", and influential non-fiction books "God and Man At Yale" by Buckley, and Whittaker Chambers' essential "Witness" (1952), "Atlas Shrugged" gave impetus to the conservative movement, which broke from the Rockefeller wing of the Republican party to launch Barry Goldwater's Quixote-like 1964 campaign; eventually the Reagan Revolution; and finally the sea change which promises to make the first half of the 21st Century an era of unparalleled American power.
Steven Travers is the author of "Barry Bonds: Baseball's Superman" ([...] He can be reached at STWRITES@aol.com.
on March 24, 2004
I am only 17 and have read many classics in my life and this book in my eyes is the best book ever written, I have to admit that I did not really want to read it at first... only choosing to read it because of the eassy contest that was offerd as a reward to get through the 1,000 plus pages. I am normaly a fairly fast reader, finishing any book in a time faster then most.... But with reading Atlas Shrugged, that has been diffrent!!! I am still reading fairly fast, but only gaining 30-40 pages in an hour span, (which is faster then what my high school libarian is reading) Though this book is not the easyiest to get through, and at times it is a little hard to fully understand. I think that after finishing this book i have come our a better more understanding person on the diffrent things that happen and why they happen and what the consuquenses are going to be from out actions. My Senior english teacher thought i was nuts to take on a book that as she said was to high of a reading level for me, but now im laughing at her, because i have gaind the better aspect on life, that she hasnt gained yet for she is to foolish to understand that a student can exceed expectations.
Thank you Ayn Rand for such a wonderful book, you are now my fav. author!
on March 22, 2004
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, presents a story about the struggle between good and evil. In doing so, an entire philosophy about business and life is developed. This philosophy teaches that the mind is the ultimate tool and power of civilization, and that reason is the world's only constant. Economics especially is highlighted by these ideas. Rational self interest and the pursuit of success are shown to be the only way people can achieve happiness. Rand uses brilliant, motivated industrialists as her protagonists in order to show the evils of charity and collectivism. Her book succeeds in getting across her points because of the way she employs logic, reason and intelligence into her characters and their actions.
Who is John Galt? This strange question eventually comes to represent the central themes and events in this incredible book. Atlas Shrugged is mystery about the significance of this phrase and what it truly means. Telling the story of a railroad tycoon, a steel industrialist, an overly wealthy playboy, and several other characters, this book shows how they all play a part in the unraveling of the mystery.
Many of the ideas presented by Atlas Shrugged focus on the central importance of the mind in human civilization. The protagonist of the book is Dagny Taggert, a young, brilliant railroad owner who succeeds because of the way she overcomes her problems through rational thought. Most of the other main characters are also extremely intelligent businessmen who have gained their place in life because of the way they use their minds. These characters are contrasted by the "looters", people who expect to be carried by the successful people and seek moral sympathy because of their positions in life. In one passage Rand writes, "Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce(806). This is shown by Rand as the only real evil of the world. Rand's ideas of the difference between right and wrong is very black and white in this book. Characters are either good or they are bad and this judgment is usually based on how they use their minds. This sharp contrast is helpful in the book because it makes the ideas presented clearer, however it also makes it seem a bit less realistic. Overall the book does well at showing that the mind is the most important aspect and also the driving force behind civilization.
Rand's economic principles shine through very brightly in Atlas Shrugged. Capitalism and free trade are shown as the tools of success and happiness. Many of her ideas about how people should act towards themselves and others in dealing with money are also explained through the story. Charity is viewed as evil and degrading. In one point in the book, Rearden, an extremely successful industrialist, is asked by his mother if he will give his incompetent younger brother a job, just because he is his brother. Rearden then says, "Are you asking me to stage a fraud of that kind? I don't know what it is that you call morality. If I gave Philip a job, I wouldn't be able to face any competent man who needed work and deserved it(196-197)." In this book, personal achievement and self-interest are stressed as the right way to live while thinking of or giving to others is viewed as the root of evil. John Galt says at one point, "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine(622). Rand believes people have no obligation towards others, except to not impede on their rights of free will and self interest. In this way, selfish behavior is shown as a virtue, while giving to the undeserving is blamed as the source of many of society's problems. This idea is very different from what is normally taught and its uniqueness makes it interesting. Even though it may go against certain beliefs and moral values, the teachings of this book are hard not to share because of the reason and intelligence that Rand gives them.
Atlas Shrugged is well worth reading, even at 1100 pages, because of its intelligence and unique outlook on life. Everything in this book makes sense and is logical, even if you don't agree with it. Views and opinions are explained and backed up using the story as a guide. The way this book is written does not allow for someone to be neutral on what is put forth. Either you agree strongly with what is being said or you disagree strongly. Either way, Rand's writing is gripping and interesting. It forces you to think about what she is saying and form your own opinion about it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something that will make them use their intelligence.
on March 15, 2004
Wow, this is nasty! I have to admire a writer passionate enough to say what she really believes, with absolutely no consideration for political correctness or intellectual fads. It reminds you that there was once a time when it was OK to create dialogue with offense. It's crude, but it's fascinating. Now, you'll hate this book if you think the term 'conservative intellectual' is an oxymoron. That's basically it in a nutshell. If you think that, by definition, intellectuals MUST be open-minded, politically-correct, liberals you're gonna hate this. It's none of those things. If you can look beyond the fact that polemical writing is a legitimate literary device used by many of the world's finest writers and not just by 'pop philosphers', you may actually get something from this book. I challenge you to ignore the hackneyed claim from many a review that Rand is nothing more than a philosopher for teenagers and really THINK about what she is saying. You may find that it's possible to be conservative AND intellectual too, God forbid.
And if you like this book, you'll also like the more arcane and subtle Czeslaw Milosz work called THE CAPTIVE MIND.
on March 14, 2004
I first read Atlas Shrugged 42 years ago, and have read it 4 or 5 times more over the decades following. I found it to be a powerful influence on my life, probably more than any single other book I have read.
I recognize as well as anyone its shortcomings and imperfections, but see through them to a powerful message that has been a rock for me. It is something like this: the world is real, and your ideas about how it functions matter, and influence the sort of life you will live. That heroes, producers and achievers are more worthy of admiration than victims; that moochers and mystics, quacks and charlatans are only to be scorned; that to believe in the salvation of a sky god is nothing but superstition; that a hard-headed, objective point of view is superior to a fuzzy sentimentality and that hard work is a virtue that eventually leads to a better life than one that concentrates on satisfying the whims and indulgences of the moment.
While Ayn Rand's prose style never approaches that of another hero of mine, H. L. Mencken, it is certainly respectable enough to produce a novel of great originality and is, for many people, very difficult to put down once well started. It is well suited to her primary goal to communicate a coherent world view, an epistemology, and a derived ethic that can actually be lived. A mathematician struggling after a theorem hardly uses humor as a tool, and Rand has no room here for it either.
As for Rand's analysis of Capitalism, I find it superior to Marx's. But I know that economics is complicated, and hardly a science yet, so her appreciation of the laissez faire variety is probably a bit of an oversimplification. And a naive libertarianism, much influenced by her objectivism, while hardly sweeping the world for now, has something to contribute too. Her biggest failure to me, though, is the problem of race, which she never discusses. It is no easy task to apply her approach to such a difficult problem, and I am not aware of any. The alternative basis in a hard-headed sociobiology, though, would probably have been quite comfortable for her, had it been available then.
Rand's message is powerful and a positive contribution to the progress of the world. Take a look--I doubt you will be disappointed.