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168 of 190 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp-edged Solar Satire, Sacred and Profane
Only a hundred pages into the latest novel from perhaps the greatest living British writer do you begin to grasp the conflict at the core of Solar. As with the vast majority of McEwan's fiction, the narrative turns on a single, earth-shattering event that rips out the rug from under its protagonist. In Solar, the game-changer occurs upon sometime Nobel laureate Michael...
Published on 22 Mar 2010 by Niall Alexander

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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exploring climate change through the lens of human nature
Solar tells the story of Michael Beard, an overweight and aging physicist who won the Nobel prize twenty years ago and hasn't had an interesting idea since. He plays on his fame and drifts between speaking engagements and sinecures, his private life is a disastrous series of failed marriages.

That all changes when a freak accident leaves him in possession of a...
Published on 17 Jan 2011 by Jeremy Williams


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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Darkly Comical, scientifically compex and politically satirical, 6 Jun 2010
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C. Ryan "bookfan" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
This was a very enjoyable read, darkly comical in parts, sometimes scientifically complex and politically satirical.
The Novel is divided into three parts, each Joins Professor Michael Beard, at a fifferent point in time 5 years on from the last. In each segment the characther grows in a different direction in response to the circumstances that present themselves. But he remains believable throught the book - albeit unlikeable.
Essentially the background theme of the novel is climate change and the quest for alternatives to fossil fuels. There are a lot of facts and science thrown into the novel to support this - but I believe that the story could have been centred around any ageing academic, business figure or polititician and still be a similar narrative. Sure, it's making an environmental and politcal statements - but this isn't doesn't make the novel 'heavy going'.

I'm ashamed to admit that this is my first Ian McEwan novel, but I will definately be reading his other books over the course of the next year
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me laugh out loud, 29 May 2010
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
I have read all of Ian McEwan's previous novels and was looking forward to this one as climate change is something I'm well informed about and I wondered how he would approach this. I like his subtle black humour in earlier writing but really didn't expect something so funny, it reminds of Eveyln Waugh in places, quite farcical at one level but well observed. It's true the main character is unsympathetic but you can't help but feel sorry for him bumbling through life. I suspect many highly esteemed experts feel like this below this surface, we're all human after all. Well worth a read whether or not you care about this issues.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Ian McEwan's SOLAR, 29 May 2010
By 
T. Hopkins "Trevor Hopkins" (England, near Poole, Dorset) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
Before reading SOLAR I did not know whether to expect it would be a humorous book, though it soon became evident that it was both as a satire on human nature and a wider political satire. Professor Beard, the eminent physicist in his professional life, is in deep contrast to his chaotic private life especially when relating to his estranged wives, strange girlfriends, and to most other people. Despite this chaos he has the intelligence to turn damaging personal situations to his advantage even if this shows him up to be devious and immoral! Ian McEwan as always keeps the reader guessing and challenges our own views as to the ethics behind the character's thought processes and actions. When it comes to the serous matter of global warming as suggested by the book's title, this is almost sidelined as irrelevant much as politicians might do, which no doubt is the authors satirical intention? I read SOLAR whilst recovering from a heart attack and hospital treatment, an experience that came to me suddenly and unexpectedly but one which I tried to absorb in an almost existentialistic way trying to make sense of it all. Ian McEwan's book I must say was an interesting and helpful read at a time when human nature is at its most sensitive in so many ways.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too true to be fiction, 7 May 2010
By 
Victoria Eveleigh "Tortie" (Exmoor, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
This is a story with(as has been said before) great characterisation. Ian McEwan is a grand master of storytelling. If anyone is unsure what 'show, don't tell' is all about, this is a classic example; very satisfying for the reader.
The renewable energy industry is portrayed with witty accuracy, drawing in great minds, cranks, crooks and hypocrites. Unfortunately, the wrong people usually gain the most from it - but that's life.
All in all, a grand piece of fiction which is a bit too believable.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, intelligent and challenging, 6 May 2010
By 
P. Matthews (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
This is an enjoyable and interesting book which represents a change of style for Ian McEwan, being less serious than most of his previous work and more in the style of a comedy, satire or even farce in places. It is sometimes reminiscent of the David Lodge, Malcolm Bradbury style - not surprising since McEwan took Bradbury's creative writing course. However, it maintains McEwan's familiar arching plot structure, where a mistake or accident early in the book sets up an inevitable, dreaded confrontation towards the end (as in Atonement, Saturday and Amsterdam).

This book is often misleadingly described as being 'about climate change'. In fact it is about many things: science, corruption of science, infidelity, dishonesty, the power of the media, salt and vinegar crisps.

The science in the book is quite convincing; McEwan has clearly done his homework. The invented science is also reasonably plausible. Shame on those reviewers who complain that there is too much science in the book - they have missed one of its main points. I only found one, trivial, error: the "I" in IPCC stands for Intergovernmental.

The disreputable main character is doubtful about climate change, but happy to cash in on the scare and promote bogus solutions. The book also makes fun of a group of "climate change artists" on a trip to the Arctic. Overall, the tone of the book is quite cynical and challenging to the reader, whatever his/her views are on the subject.

The book does have some weaknesses. It lacks the intensity and emotion of his best work, and the ending is rather weak. Also, there are too many affairs, which become tedious and interrupt the narrative (a weakness he seems to have inherited from Bradbury).
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What You'd Expect, 26 April 2010
By 
A. Ingason "Alastair" (Romsey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
I couldn't totally engage with this book, the story is beautifully written and the writing itself is intelligent and well structured. Like any Ian McEwan book you expect it to be a damn good read, but also at times quite confusing.
This is no exception, I'd say it definately is worth reading, but it's not a page turning thriller, or a book you can't put down. It's more a clever story which intrigues.

Either way, it's a very good book, I can't fault it, only that it requires some concentration to get through it :)
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hot Stuff, 24 April 2010
By 
J. Maisey (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
Excellent! Very funny in parts, tension builds throughout and interesting airing of the Global Warming issues. Loved it!
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Catheters of ceaseless traffic and the hot breath of civilization, 22 April 2010
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
Given Michael Beard's less than endearing list of personal weaknesses - he's a junk food junkie, a fat, lazy, greedy slob, and a serial adulterer with an impressive collection of five failed marriages - you could be forgiven for thinking that Ian McEwan has a rather low opinion of scientists, were it not that he also makes Beard "unaccountably attractive to certain beautiful women". In any case, how we conduct our personal lives does not necessarily reflect how well we do our jobs, and McEwan's award of a Nobel prize in physics (for the Beard-Einstein Conflation) to his central character sets Beard at the top of his profession, except that we also learn that he's done nothing since. The tiny vehicle of Beard's talent "had hitched a ride behind the juggernaut of a world-historical genius". This man of science, who "had an automatic respect for internal consistency", is himself a mass of contradictions. The character flaws, the comic excess, the challenge of tracing a nimble plot through the narrative stodge of climate change - all are carried along by McEwan's fluent style and result in a fine novel.

Ah, that word narrative. To Beard, people "who kept on about narrative tended to have a squiffy view of reality". He's wary of anyone interested in the "epic story" of climate science, when for him all that matters is the science. Even more squiffy is the postmodern "Nancy Temple tendency" to see science as "just one more belief system, no more or less truthful than religion or astrology". The Ms Temple in question, as well as believing that genes did not enjoy an independent existence and were, "in the strongest sense, socially constructed", took exception to Beard's suggestion, on the basis of good scientific evidence, that there were differences between the brains of men and women.

She resigned from a committee rather than share a platform with the odious Beard. In a subtle parallel, many years earlier, Maisie, his first wife, had resigned from their marriage rather than share his objectivity. "There were other ways of knowing the world, women's ways, which he treated dismissively." Maisie and Ms Temple separately express anti-science ideas, absurd enough in isolation, undermined even further by the delicious contradiction between them when placed side by side.

Maisie was studying English literature. Beard boned up on Milton to have something to talk about, and it worked, although the marriage that followed did not. She was not about to return the compliment and go dewy eyed over the Ricci scalar. No third-year arts person could have done what Beard did. "The traffic was one-way. His Milton week made him suspect a monstrous bluff... He suspected there was nothing they talked about there that anyone with half a brain could fail to understand... And yet they passed themselves off as his superiors..." Thirty-odd years later, he finds himself on board a ship in the Arctic, among the grown-up versions of those students, artists and idealists hoping to understand climate change. He "was among scientific illiterates and could have said anything" but didn't. A novelist called Meredith does the reverse. Forgetting there's a physicist present, he pontificates on Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and the moral sphere.

The fictional Meredith plunders science for jargon to impress his gullible peers. The real McEwan, in contrast, is rare among novelists in having a serious appreciation of science, and in arguing that scientific ignorance is nothing to be proud of, but a massive missed opportunity for anyone who claims to be interested in the world. Science matters because it's how we find out about the world. That said, this is still a novel and not a textbook: it's about the character of Michael Beard and not a biography of his scientific career. McEwan is a skilful storyteller and scientific details work their way in seamlessly: at one point Beard wonders whether he will ever wear the dressing gown worn by his wife's lover, which reminded me of the psychologist Bruce Hood's Fred West cardigan (Supersense: From Superstition to Religion - the Brain Science of Belief), and the decision-making mind is described "as a parliament, a debating chamber", which reminded me of a passage in Jonah Lehrer's (The Decisive Moment). These ideas are always germane to plot and character and don't require the reader to go and look anything up. Indeed, many readers may not even realize they've just consumed a scientific concept. (Given his character's and McEwan's respect for internal consistency, it's a surprise to find, within a few lines, "useful tailwind... cutting headwind". This is the minutest exception to the usually clear and lucid prose.)

In the early stages of writing this novel, McEwan had the honour of addressing a meeting attended by several science Nobel laureates, where he felt like the intellectual equivalent of an after-dinner mint. There is a flavour of this modesty in a reflection he gives to his own fictional laureate: "There were novels Aldous wanted him to read - novels!" (Seldom has a single exclamation point had such reflexive charm!) Michael Beard - discoverer of the Beard-Einstein Conflation, pioneer of artificial photosynthesis, would-be climate change hero - almost certainly wouldn't get round to reading this novel, but that doesn't mean the rest of us should follow his example.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, 22 April 2010
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This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
Those of you expecting a serious climate change analysis - get over it. This is the author's funniest novel to date and a lot of fun. The scene about frostbite alone is worth the cover price. It is slightly in the tradition of Tom Sharpe but what is wrong with that? There is enough out there already about climate change that is depressing, I like this well written witty take on the subject.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars McEwan Wilts in the sun . ., 31 Mar 2010
This review is from: Solar (Hardcover)
I'm not Ian McEwan's biggest fan but I quite enjoyed this.
His recent approach to a novel seems to be to take a modish topic, dissect and desiccate it through forensic research, and then lay out his clever learnings in front of us, wrapped in some half-convincing narrative arc. Well, he does all that again here, but the redeeming feature is a strand of humour and a decent portrait of a man (as opposed to mankind) in a misanthropic, dysfunctional descent towards extinction. So the book succeeds for me not so much because of McEwan's exploration of global warming, rather for some apparent back-reading of the novels of Tom Sharpe. If he got critically stoned for nicking pebbles off Chesil Beach last time, this time the whole story is about plagiarism, so borrowing a bit of Wilt is presumably a piece of deliberate irony.
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