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95 of 106 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Thought Provoking but Overlong
This novel hardly needs a review to encourage someone to buy it, when you consider one point alone: It is over 50 years old and people still read it and enjoy it. It is a classic and nothing I can say can detract from that.

But it is also a product of its time, espousing a philosophy that is only internally consistent if one makes rather more assumptions than...
Published on 19 Mar 2009 by Sir Furboy

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but increasingly becomes little more than a vehicle for a political rant
This is a very long book, over 1200 pages. The first half is intriguing, well-written and very well structured. The second half is still structured but even those appearing somewhat heroic in the earlier part of the book increasingly lost my sympathy until there was nothing attractive left about the characters or the political philosophy they espoused. What finally...
Published 12 months ago by S M Fowler


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95 of 106 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, Thought Provoking but Overlong, 19 Mar 2009
By 
Sir Furboy (Aberystwyth, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Atlas Shrugged (Paperback)
This novel hardly needs a review to encourage someone to buy it, when you consider one point alone: It is over 50 years old and people still read it and enjoy it. It is a classic and nothing I can say can detract from that.

But it is also a product of its time, espousing a philosophy that is only internally consistent if one makes rather more assumptions than the author admits to. The characters all speak with Ayn Rand's voice, in a manner that might be familiar to readers of Galileo perhaps, but not so much with readers of a good modern novel. The characters feel unreal. The whole setting is preposterously unreal, and here is a novel that would have been better set in an alternate universe of a science fiction writer, in the manner - say - of Philip Dick's "The Man in the High Castle". Perhaps that was her intent in fact, but she gives us no anchor into the world she is describing and the action of the novel dances across an empty stage.

For anyone seeking rich characterizations, realistic interactions, or a sense of place in the narrative, you will be disappointed in this novel. The novel is merely the platform for Rand's polemic, and jumps from unbelievable to the preposterous without apology.

This being said, it was still a jolly good read. The conflict in the novel is engrossing and draws you in quickly. The first time someone defeats a "looter government", you want to applaud. When Dagny (the protaganist) completes a railway line against all the odds you can feel her exhilieration - even if you wonder how she managed it! The concept of the plot is refreshingly original, and readers will want to finish the novel.

Given its length though, finishing can be tricky - especially where it comes to a 90 page speech espousing Rand's epistemology. Some aspects of the plot were also tiring, and one wonders whether the book could have achieved its purpose whilst being edited a little. Ok, the 90 page speech was probably why she wrote the book - but perhaps Rand forgets the maxim here: "show don't tell"

Ultimately though, the book's philosophy suffers for being the product of an age that does not exist any longer. Marxism is a target of Rand's polemic, but also social programmes that have clearly worked and brought tremendous benefit to the world (including the US), such as the Marshal plan. At the same time, she defends a world of producer industrialists that largely no longer exist now, and rather misses the point that invention in our modern world is hardly the preserve of big business (even if only businesses have the resources to patent their inventions). I could say more on this, but this is a review - not a critique, so I will stop!

I give the book 4 stars despite all this criticism, because I do not regret having read it. I enjoyed it, I thought about it, I disagree with a good deal of it, but I do not regret it. Neither will you.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dagny Taggart and her three lovers: Copper, Steel and Gold, 31 Mar 2013
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Nicholas J. R. Dougan "Nick Dougan" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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Atlas Shrugged may be the most demanding work of literature I have read since university. It is certainly the only novel since then for which I have also bought a reader, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companionfiftieth anniversary collection of essays, and it is only now, having finished that, that I am turning to writing a review. At about 1,200 pages (always a bit hard to tell from a Kindle edition) it is also, give or take the occasional "space opera", the longest work I've read for a long time. So: was it worth it?

Arguably this is a work of fiction that is more germane today that it ever was. In a month where the government of one European state, Cyprus, exercised a "levy" thought to be over 40% on investors with over 100,000 on deposit, it's worth considering Rand's depiction of the causes and effects of state-backed "looting and mooching". While I find it surprising, 55 years on, that she could have seen the seeds of such statist decadence in the US of the 1940s and 1950s, the New Deal notwithstanding, there is no doubt that the European Union would have represented, to Rand, an (un)worthy successor to the Soviet Union as the archetype of a well meaning but ultimately corrupting and self-defeating super-state. Every day the news abounds with stories of government spending tax payers' money because they feel that "something must be done", or perhaps just that they feel that they ought to be seen to be doing something. Rand was clear: the best thing government can do is stick to maintaining freedom through the rule of law, and then by getting (the hell) out of individuals' way.

I doubt that anyone reads Atlas Shrugged today without knowing that they are reading a philosophical novel from a right wing, more or less libertarian perspective. There are those who claim that it is a great novel in its own right. While few would argue that works of fiction achieve greatness without giving us insights into some profound aspects of the human condition, few if any literary contenders focus so exclusively on the socio-economic and political facets. The narrative is interesting, it's exciting (although it could probably have been more exciting had it been shorter) and the imagery is arresting. Dagny Taggart is without doubt a compelling female role-model. My enjoyment may have been prejudiced a little by the knowledge that every character had been created to represent a particular viewpoint, and I may have spent too long trying to work out what they were, but I can't help thinking that the storyline suffers from all the characters being archetypes.

Characters tend to be either heroic or contemptuously villainous, and there's a distinct white hat/black hat feel to them, made all the more obvious by Rand's unsubtle use of physical attractiveness as a key to character. Perhaps this was the Hollywood screenwriter in her. The heroes are physically attractive while the baddies are ugly. Dagny's brother, James Taggart, the worst sort of pork barrel businessman, is first described as having "a small, petulant mouth, and thin hair clinging to a bald forehead". Dangy's three lovers, by contrast, Copper magnate Francisco D'Anconia, steel foundry owner Hank Reardon, and the inventor and philosopher John Galt, suffer only from being just too heroic, too near to godlike to make entirely believable characters. It's hard to develop empathy with an archetype, and I found only Dagny herself to be truly engaging.

Atlas Shrugged was the last work of fiction that Ayn Rand wrote. I suspect that after this book, and The Fountainhead that preceded it (by 14 years) she no longer needed to worry about money, and she devoted herself to developing her philosophy of "Objectivism" in non-fiction works. I can't say that I found it entirely easy to glean what objectivism was about from the novel alone (Younkins' reader has gone some way to plugging the gap since). Suffice to say that hers is a harsh and elitist philosophy, in which 99% of humanity could at best aspire to be the loyal "common man" represented by Dagny's right hand man, Eddie Willers.

John Galt's credo, and presumably therefore Rand's own, is "I swear by my life and for my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." While one may admire the entrepreneurialism, drive and personal responsibility of Rand's entrepreneurs, I do find her blanket condemnation of altruism misplaced. She appears to discourage personal altruism, not just state-backed, taxpayer-funded altruism. Does she condemn the Rockefellers, the Carnegies and now the Buffetts and the Gates for giving much of their fortunes to aid others? Is it not part of our role and our worth as human beings to look after other members of our "tribe"? Certainly, contemporary genetic theory from the likes of Steve Jones seems to suggest so. Credo: we should all be prepared to live a little of our lives for the sake of others.

As far as specifically ebook related comment on this Kindle edition, it's pretty good from what was probably a scan of a printed version, with a singular but oft repeated error that a small amount of proof reading would have fixed: every time the letter "a" follows a capital W, and some other letters too, it too was rendered as a capital. The frequently visited Wayne-Falkland hotel was rendered every time as the "WAy ne-Falkland". Amusing in a way, but distracting.

This is a book I feel sure that I will re-read again in the future, and I may yet read some of Rand's non-fiction. Great work that it is, however, this is not a book that I feel I can award 5 stars, but it's certainly worth reading - even if you don't fully understand, or feel you entirely like, all aspects of Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but increasingly becomes little more than a vehicle for a political rant, 30 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Atlas Shrugged (Kindle Edition)
This is a very long book, over 1200 pages. The first half is intriguing, well-written and very well structured. The second half is still structured but even those appearing somewhat heroic in the earlier part of the book increasingly lost my sympathy until there was nothing attractive left about the characters or the political philosophy they espoused. What finally killed it for me was a totally inappropriate three hour political rant from one of the main characters. It became abundantly clear why it is often regarded as 'the manifesto of the Tea Party' in the USA.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Started off well but the plot became ridiculous, 26 May 2014
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This review is from: Atlas Shrugged (Kindle Edition)
Started off well and set the reader up with an understanding of the characters and an interesting story that made you want to read more, you want to know what is going to happen next and you want to know what will happen to the characters. The political views and philosophy of the author are obvious and incorporated into the plot and characters however the story becomes ridiculous in trying to force that view of the world, two thirds of the way through the book the plot looses touch with reality and goes to far and as such I skim read the last parts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, long, thought-provoking, 25 May 2014
This review is from: Atlas Shrugged (Kindle Edition)
It is indeed a lengthy book to read. Fictional, but in many parts this body of work gives way to a deeper philosophical/sociological quality.
The ouevre is very much the product of the age it was borne in and of Ms Rand's personal history, voicing the reasons and claims of Objectivism. I am not quite sure it has a contemporary quality to it, as other readers have instead found in light of the recent economic crisis. The rational of Objectivism, though, pushes and solicits further thought which I find difficult to dismiss with a shrug (no pun intended).
It is a 'must read', notwithstanding the length (especially of Galt's speech) and the style in which it is written, which - this time around - isn't always very smooth.
Whatever one's personal beliefs and thoughts are, they shall be challenged and debated upon - which is always a treat for the mind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!, 13 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Atlas Shrugged (Kindle Edition)
There are almost certainly a great many reasons to criticise Ayn Rand and her beliefs but the majority of her critics seem to have ignored them and instead just spouted the most outrageous twaddle, occasionally dressed up as rational argument but mostly not. This book is deeply flawed in several respects but at its core is something so truly worthwhile that the flaws cannot hide it. The world Rand describes is one that we can see all around us; the attitudes of many of her "villains" is one that you will hear every single day, from important public figures and people who you will meet in day-to-day life. Her heroes (and they are heroes, not just protagonists) are too perfect for the real world but isn't that the point of heroes? The solutions she offers to the world's problems are not bad solutions, they just won't work until people are brought up to be good instead of bland. If, from the nursery, people are educated to believe that right is right then the world Rand believes in can, and almost certainly must, come to pass. Unfortunately, today we are brought up to believe that we should judge no one, that all points of view are valid, and that competition is inherently evil. If we're ever going to get ourselves out of the mess we're in, making "Atlas Shrugged" compulsory reading for anyone old enough to read would be a good start (but make them read "The Romantic Manifesto" first; I guarantee you, once they've read that, you won't be able to keep them away from "Atlas Shrugged"). To steal a line from another great philosophical work of the past century, this book will change the way you think and feel about your life. And isn't that what great literature is supposed to do?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Challenges you like no other book......, 2 Oct 2014
This is a Marmite book, you will either be cheering on John Galt, Dagny Taggart and Henry Reardon - or you will not. This is a story set in the dystopian future that pits the world's inventors, entrepreneurs and free thinkers against those that seek to thwart them by misappropriating their invention, ideas and wealth. These people are labelled as 'looters' - invariably, this is Big Government seeking to take the proceeds from their success and subjugate them for the 'greater good'.

When people begin to mysteriously disappear, government concern turns to panic as John Galt's fanciful prophesy looks like it is going to come true.

It is a lengthy read, longer than War and Peace and it weaves a story from many strands beautifully to its inevitable conclusion. Rand's characters are consistent, her command of the English language is fantastic, it is precision writing that flows very well.

Personally, I enjoyed the book immensely, it was written at a time when Hayek's Road to Serfdom and Orwell's vision of the future were vivid in the minds of the public as was Europe's embrace of socialism and the USSR's menace was becoming increasingly apparent.

It is a book of its time but remarkably prescient in the backdrop of socialised losses in the wake of the 2007-8 banking crisis and subsequent global recession.

Regardless of politics, this book will challenge your view of yourself and those around you, either to reject it or perhaps see things in a different way. Very few works of fiction have that power and that makes this book one of the best works of the 20th century.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but not for everybody, 6 July 2014
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This review is from: Atlas Shrugged (Kindle Edition)
I have read many reviews and they are all either very flattering or very critical. Personally I found this to be a liberating book. Sure, Rand's beliefs are being shown to the reader through extreme situations but I think it is worth remembering not to take everything word for word. Ayn Rand had her convictions and believed in true liberalism and this book is certainly a must read for any liberalist. Should your political convictions lie more on the social side of things than I suggest you skip this one. If you have no political convictions, read it. There are some great bits of writing in there and great life wisdom.
To me personally it is a book about assertiveness and not allowing others to take advantage of a good heart. A world where one does not give in to guilt and sheds the responsibility for others if they refuse to take any responsibility themselves. This is a book whose premise is to show that sometimes the will to continuously support and help loved ones just causes more harm (similarly to addictions etc). The negative reviews take this book too seriously and not as the work of fiction that it actually is. It is also work remembering that Ayn Rand was Russian by birth and escaped the political regime there. She also lived in times of significant industrial advancement.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Clarion call of a bygone era, 17 Oct 2012
Perhaps the most significant book in post-war American literature, one which has regained popularity since the start of the economic crisis, Altas Shrugged is the embodiment of an ideal society, the ultimate vehicle for Ayn Rand's philosophy of objectivism. Weighing in at over 1,000 pages of tightly-packed print, it's also one of the longest novels in English literature. Is it any good?

Well, as a novel, Atlas Shrugged unfortunately falls flat, in ways that Rand's first novel, We the Living (Penguin Modern Classics), didn't. There is foremost no humanity in the novel, the characters are dismembered, dessicated mouthpieces to Rand's philosophical diatribes, with everyone fitting neatly into 'good' and 'bad' camps. Rand herself claimed that using characters as symbols was never her intention: "My characters are persons in whom certain human attributes are focused more sharply and consistently than in average human beings." But what we are left with are flimsy apparitions, lobotomised automatons fulfilling the roles required of them to extol the virtues of her philosophy. Even this is taken to extremes, with one of the proponents delivering a 60-page long theoretical speech around which the rest of the novel might well be seen as scaffolding.

To complement this set of lifeless characters is a plot which similarly confounds understanding. In an America which technologically resembles the period in which Rand was writing, yet industrially feels set in an earlier period, and borrows heavily from the Great Depression, the main events and the decisions of the characters jar heavily with what the reader knows and expects from society. As another reviewer pointed out, what's missing is the overt understanding that the story takes place in a parallel world or a different timeframe, to create a genuine sense of credibility. True, there are some hints that push this novel into the realms of science fiction--a super metal alloy, power derived from static electricity, weapons based on sound waves etc.--but the world is definitely our own, even if the people and their decisions are alien. Key to the story is the gradual collapse of the economic system, and the disappearance of the champions of industry. What happens in Rand's universe when the creative minds of the world go on strike? Apparently, they settle down on the frontier and, working one month a year, create a fully-fledged miniature utopia. Personally, I imagine they'd starve.

A bad book can still be a good delivery vehicle for an interesting message. Yet this unwieldy book fails even to achieve the latter. For its mammoth length, Rand's message could have been relatively concise, but for the plot's repetitiveness. If you are interested in Rand's philosophy, there are plenty of other places to turn which will provide a far more succinct and detailed explanation, without the repetition or padding necessary for its delivery in novel form. Whether you find place for Rand's philosophy in your own, or like Gore Vidal consider it "nearly perfect in its immorality", there are simply better summaries available. For the converted, this is probably a wonderful book, but for anyone else it simply isn't worth risking the investment of time and energy.

No one can deny this book's enduring popularity. That alone gives rise to curiosity strong enough to keep it fresh in the public consciousness. But it is a far cry from a great piece of literature, and as an allegory, a philosophical harbinger, its ponderous and verbose nature should have the curious turn elsewhere. The novel opens with the question: "Who is John Galt?" A thousand pages of largely disappointing text will reveal the answer, but you'd be better served just reading the appendix.
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100 of 123 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but better to wait for the movie., 23 April 2007
Atlas Shrugged is a 1100 page(small print!) novel in which 4 or 5 people stride about like nationalistic heroes building railroads, inventing things, and being proud of it; while the rest of the world mooches off them and complain that the industrialists have too much money.

Even though I'm a liberal, I have to admit this book was interesting. It's like a dystopian novel for capitalists (God knows how many there are for socialists). The ideas are challenging and thought-provoking whoever you are, and the writing is pretty nice, Rand obviously put a lot of energy into the book.

But it's pretty clunky, the plot goes on so many boring tangents, the love scenes are ridiculous, the characters are uninteresting, and most of all it's too repetitive. A quarter of the way through the book I was already familiar with all aspects of Rand's philosophy, and I could tell precisely where the book was going, so reading it felt like a bit of a chore, especially since I never skim pages.

If you're an anti-union, hardcore capitalist then buy the book and revel in it, but if you're not, then wait for the expected movie, with Angelina Jolie coming out in 2008.

I gave this a 4 because the people who would like this would love it, and it's quite a novelty to read a writer who isn't a liberal/socialist/hedonist/romantic/bum.
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Atlas Shrugged
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Mass Market Paperback - 30 Jan 1992)
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