The literary event of the summer: a new novel from Ian McEwan, as surprising as it is masterful. Michael Beard is a Nobel prize-winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions, and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. While he coasts along in his professional life, Michael's personal life is another matter entirely. His fifth marriage is crumbling under the weight of his infidelities. But this time the tables are turned: His wife is having an affair, and Michael realizes he is still in love with her. When Michael's personal and professional lives begin to intersect in unexpected ways, an opportunity presents itself in the guise of an invitation to travel to New Mexico. Here is a chance for him to extricate himself from his marital problems, reinvigorate his career, and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster. Can a man who has made a mess of his life clean up the messes of humanity? A complex novel that brilliantly traces the arc of one man's ambitions and self-deceptions, Solaris a startling, witty, and stylish new work from one of the world's great writers.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
Booker Prize-winner McEwan (On Chesil Beach; Atonement) once again deploys domestic strife to examine the currents of worldwide change. This time, McEwan shoots for the sun, with the promise of solar energy gradually legitimizing itself in the mind of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Michael Beard. While Bush v. Gore drags on across the Atlantic and Beard's fifth marriage dissolves in an adulterous haze, the waning laureate rides his reputation to a cushy position at a U.K. climate research center, where he is generally disdainful of his younger colleagues. Then, following an epiphany of sorts, Beard pins the accidental death of a rival scientist on his wife's lover and steals the other man's research. By 2009, Beard is in New Mexico, riding high on ill-gotten funding and patents and within sight of a curious redemption. Beard is a fascinatingly repulsive protagonist, but he can't sustain a novel broken up by fast-forwards (all of which require tedious backstories) and a stream of overwritten courtships. The scientific material is absorbing, but the interpersonal portions are much less so-troublesome, since McEwan seems to prefer the latter-making for an inconsistent novel that one finishes feeling unpleasantly glacial. (Mar.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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March 28, 2010
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