Sunday, November 15, 2009

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

This unabridged audiobook was obtained from the Alachua County Public Library website, was 63 hours long, and narrated by Scott Brick.

The only book I ever read by Ayn Rand was Anthem. That was in High School, and I disliked it so much, that the last thing I ever wanted to do was read a 1300 page novel by this woman. Thanks to the advent of the downloadable audiobook, and fast Internet connections, I finally decided to take on this behemoth.

As a novel, it's quite engaging. The characters do not leave you without some sort of emotional reaction, even though that reaction ranges from low grade annoyance to a desire to be a part of their firing squad. The story has enough action to keep you moving to the next long-winded diatribe, and even those serve the purpose of helping you distill the whole into your own personal outrage. There is even a romantic element. Dagny Taggart, railroad tycoon and serial femme fatale, finds a love of her life for different stages of it: Francisco D'Anconia when she is young and idealistic, Hank Riordan when she is successful but frustrated with a world that despises achievment, and John Galt when she is ready to do something about it.

As a philosophical vehicle, it is a bit pretentious in that it tries to present itself as a closed system in which all its questions are answered. In the entire story of a dystopian society dying a slow death by central planning, in which its paralyzing worldview of passing no judgment has created an aimless leadership over mindless drones, there is not a single religious character. In a 63 hour storyy, was there not time? Although churches and preachers are eluded to, they are irrelevant to the story; that is, until John Galt's 3 hour speech. This Magnum Opus of Ayn Rand's belief's lays all the world's problems on the doorstep of people of faith.

For an atheist, Ayn Rand seems to have a difficult time coming up with a good religious straw man. If anything, the dim-witted, equivocating, pontificating leadership of her Declining America is suspiciously Liberal in the mold of our current band of politically correct leaders. Even the scientists, foreshadowing our own Global Warming movement, are political toadies pulling the levers of Washington to elevate their esteem in the world.

I found much to disagree with, but much more to like. It is a challenging book that will test your beliefs and work your mind. And it could change a world if enough minds were willing to do the work. It's much easier to believe in God.

I give it four stars.

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