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Ratner's Star [Paperback]

Don Delillo
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

16 July 1992
Billy Twillig has won the first Nobel Prize ever to be given in mathematics. Set in the near future, this book charts an innocent's education when Billy is sent to live in the company of 30 Nobel laureates and he is asked to decipher transmissions from outer space.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (16 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009992840X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099928409
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 218,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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)

Book Description

An early novel from much celebrated DeLillo, in which his characteristically powerful prose invites the reader into the mysterious, mind-blowing, mathematical world of the future.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
'Ratner's Star' is Don DeLillo's fourth novel, published in 1976. I suspect that it is also the least read and the most frequently abandoned - which would be a pity, since in some ways it shares the qualities of the later, more popular books.

DeLillo's public profile changed in 1985 when 'White Noise' won a National Book Award, and there now seem to be two distinct DeLillo audiences: one that discovered him at that time and knows him primarily through that book and its successors, particularly 'Libra' and 'Mao II', all big sellers and now firmly ensconced on university syllabuses; and a second audience that has followed him from his beginnings in the early '70s, and for whom these later books are not a surprise but a continuation. For these readers, 'White Noise' is if anything a relaxation into comedy from DeLillo's thorniest efforts, of which 'Ratner's Star' is the first and 'The Names' the second.

DeLillo is on record as stating that Thomas Pynchon set the benchmark for his generation of American writers, and 'Ratner's Star' is arguably DeLillo's most Pynchonesque book. Set at an unspecified point in the mid-twenty-first century, this is also DeLillo's closest approach to science fiction - though this takes the form of mild extrapolation from the late twentieth century and speculation about advances in mathematics and physics rather than technological fantasies about the far future. In fact DeLillo persistently derives comedy from the unforeseen consequences of technological innovation - a tactic that gives him something in common with Kurt Vonnegut.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful printing 4 July 2011
Format:Paperback
I was eager to read the book, but got rather disappointed when I opened it: the printing is so bad and so difficult to read that I'm not sure I'll be able to get through it. Am I the only one with this problem?
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but rewarding 9 Feb 2001
By Bryan Charles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great DeLillo for math/science fans 6 July 2000
By Yaumo Gaucho - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not DeLillo's best undertaking 11 Dec 2006
By Mr. Richard K. Weems - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I must admit that this book, even after two stabs at it, didn't thrill me the way other DeLillo novels can, and I did feel as though I were reading something more by Thomas Pynchon. Many of DeLillo's finest work seems to work on the exploration and twisting of its own metaphor, but filtered through extraordinary but still accessible characters, people who feel both rooted in and confused by the complexities of the world behind them. _Ratner's Star_ seems to want to delve in such a way, but through a situation far more absurdist.

Billy Twilling is a young math Nobel laureate who is pulled into a think tank that bombards him on all sides with eccentrics, from fellow mathematicians to the custodians. Yet many of these characters become redundant through their lack of introduction and propensity for monologue. Many moments of the book read like Kafka and Michio Kaku co-writing an episode of _Dragnet_. Twilling's main job is to decipher a coded message received from outer space, but of course his progress is hindered and his job outright disregarded by many in Field Experiment One. Eventually, the book breaks down in plotline and form itself when Twilling is pulled underground into a new project that is off the charts.

There are many delights in this book--Twilling himself is a wonderfully concise and hilariously unhumorous boy. DeLillo shows his skill at even comic timing on the page. The scenes with a mathematic precurser who has banished himself to a hole in the ground and the meeting of the esteemed Ratner himself during a torch ceremony are wonderful, yet I didn't find the book as a whole challenging with its exploration of metaphor as DeLillo does in later books. There is a wide expanse of characters, but the ecentricities become the focus of the book, not the crucial ideas, and the eccentricities become a little formulaic at times, even in their seeming randomness.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Firm Demonstration 7 May 2010
By Tyler Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The novel is a thing of great power and beauty, not limited to the works that populate the "best seller" list. Unfortunately, in America, we have been conditioned to expect instant gratification and understanding, whereas truly great works of art require the attention and concentration of a great reader.

Ratner's Star is, according to Mr. Delillo himself, his favorite of all his novels. The reason for this, I can only imagine, is a true sense of pride in having finished it and accomplished something so dense and difficult...and difficult it is. This is not easy reading. The language is a conglomeration of mathematics and science, of speculation and spiritual dimension.

This is a novel by a relatively "new" writer (at the time) wishing to flex his intellectual muscles and perhaps prove to the world at large that he is a voice to be reckoned with in the future of American writing. Cormac Mccarthy also did this with his incredible novel "Suttree."

Many reviews I read seem to expect something from a novel: a very specific and easy to understand plot, wonderful characters, and maybe even some twists and turns. But true literature challenges the reader to step beyond these confines and give himself over to ideas and turns of phrase. This novel is like a dream in which all is understood while in the midst of it, step away for too long and you will lose all sense of time and place.

Of course, anyone reading Delillo is already aware of how he writes, his work is not tailor made for the ADD generation. His work takes time and patience to appreciate, just like great paintings hanging in a museum, to truly recognize the genius at work you can't just walk through the room. You have to stand there, motionless, and study the brush strokes, the amount of skill and effort that went into creating what you're looking at. For this reason alone Ratner's Star stands out and above, a novel of vast ideas and ingenious philosophy. It is a firm demonstartion of Mr. Delillo's power with words and his grasp on what a novel was meant to be...a tool to shape modern thought through one means or another. Granted, they are just words on a page, but they are also so much more than that, just like a sunset is much more than colors in the sky.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ratner's Star 18 Aug 2003
By Brandon A Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book has quickly become one of my favorites. A beautifully written novel about language, mathematics, the fear of death, and an individuals place within the complexity of reality. There are sentences within this book that made me read them six or seven times they were so beautiful. An exceptional work that i cannot wait to read again.
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