Features the author in converstation with his editor, Dan Franklin.
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.
A compulsive womaniser, Beard finds his fifth marriage floundering. But this time it is different: she is having the affair, and he is still in love with her.When Beard’s professional and personal worlds collide in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself for him to extricate himself from his marital mess, reinvigorate his career, and save the world from environmental disaster.
Ranging from the Arctic Circle to the deserts of New Mexico, Solar is a serious and darkly satirical novel, showing human frailty struggling with the most pressing and complex problem of our time. A story of one man’s greed and self-deception, it is a profound and stylish new work from one of the world’s great writers.
©2010 Ian McEwan (P)2010 Random House Audiobooks
'[A] novel that promises comedy as well as crisis.' (The Guardian)
And I'm clearly not talking about blood and guts here. Solar sits you down and serves you scotch in the mind's armchair of Prof. Michael Beard, Nobel Prize winning scientist, opportunist and everyday scoundrel. Entertaining because it's funny - he is a true rogue and gentleman, and squeamish because despite your better judgement you'll be on Beard's side. Mostly because you've silently recognised the rogue in yourself. Surely that's not just me?
There are those who call this the most self concious novel in a string of particularly successful books and perhaps there's truth to that. But Solar is well written, well read, and will in parts raise more than a smile.
Blurring the boundaries between fiction, hearsay and fact, there's plenty to sink your teeth (ears?) into. Thoroughly modern, thoroughly enjoyable.
"Solar" far exceeded my high expectations. I consider myself an experienced reader of McEwan's novels, having gone through the excellent "Amsterdam", "Enduring Love" and "Saturday". In my opinion, "Solar" is the best among this impressive peer group of novels. I might be prejudiced, as green technology is one of my areas of interest, but it is not just the excellent insights on technology that make this book truly Great. Professor Michael Beard's character is a dramatic one, at times reminding me of tragic Shakespearean protagonists.
Beard is a man with a cognitive claim to fame (his Nobel Prize) that is quickly gathering dust, and who more than offsets this achievement by pretty much screwing up everything else in his life: obesity, lack of social intelligence, marriages and breakups, cover-ups of his vile deeds, general "untidyness", etc.
As usual (he's done similar things in earlier novels), McEwan introduces a dramatic plot turn that is defining the rest of the novel. After that, the decay of Michael Beard seems to accelerate.
A great novel with a nice structure incorporating flashbacks, well narrated in the audiobook version, and ending with an insightful interview with the author.
I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
What a disappointment!
McEwan either has a brilliant vocabulary or a well-thumbed thesaurus; maybe both. Many passages in Solar seemed only to exist to give the author an excuse to show-off his vocab, and served no purpose to progress or enhance the storyline. Too often nine words are used when three would have been sufficient, similarly, often a long word is chosen when a short one would have done the job. There are way too many "creative" metaphors: All making many stretches of Solar ponderous. The writing style is simply pretentious, not art - simply bad writing.
The character of Michael Beard is strong and interesting if not the slightest bit likeable, but that's ok, because at least he is unique and complex. His lack of attractiveness and personality quirks make him colourful and he almost carries what is a fairly disappointing plot.
In the publicity for Solar there were several descriptions of it being a dark satirical novel. The two problems are firstly, it's not very funny or secondly, particularly dark. The satirical elements are few and far between, and the humour is clunky and incredibly predictable: as is much of the plot. You can see the next twist coming a mile-off; with the exception of the polar bear rug incident.
Solar is well research, almost educational on the sciences of physics and climate, and the author is clearly an intelligent guy, judging by the interview with his editor - who is maybe the one who should carry the blame for this novel being so poor. The story was hard to follow at times as it jumped around alot in time, and often it took me paragraph or two to work out where we were in the story.
The narrator did a very good job. His Oxbridge accent added to the pretentious feel of the writing, but he performed the various accents well, and was easy to listen to.
The amount of irrelevant detail and focus on sexually explicit aspects of the story that had nothing to do with the actual plot, was distracting, and ultimately off-putting. I could not even plow through it to the end.
The narration was clear, excellent and provided a quality listening experience.
90% of the sexual references.
Yes. I enjoyed the very descriptive details of the main characters thoughts.
I did laugh out loud a number of times at how awful he was.
He spoke just the way I imagined a larger man who beleived he was superior to those around him would speak.
I laughed a lot in this book. He really was so awful a man.
Do men really think as this main character does?
I am ashamed to say that I really enjoyed the main character, Michael Beard, captured with flair and depth by the narrator. This book ticked all the boxes for me - humour, science, womanising, supreme confidence, thoughtfulness and eventual comeuppance (regretfully). Buy it and enjoy - I will now read it for myself. The interview at the end with the magnificent Ian McEwan is an added bonus.
"Roald Dahl meets Martin Amis"
I've enjoyed all of the Ian McEwan books I have listened to and this is one of the best. He combines really clever writing with a liking for macabre plot twists and dark humour. There are some excellent set-pieces in the novel, my favourites being his descriptions of a nasty accident on a snow-mobile and of a stand-off over a packet of salt and vinegar crisps. The narrator did an excellent job. It is hard to find fault with this book if you are a fan.
"Man made global warming"
Like a coordinated air strike, Ian McEwan tries to reach many different targets in his new novel. As the interview with the writer included with the audio-book reveals, solar was going to be from the very beginning a novel about global warming. However although McEwan is a known proselytizer in this area, the characters in the novel are equivocal, until self interest and nothing more causes them to change sides. The central character of the book is a Nobel prize winning physicist who is trading on his former reputation both in the lecture room and in his personal life, and it is in the latter area in which he has problems as the book opens with his latest wife conducting her own extra marital experiments. The cleverly constructed story includes a great amount of accurate detail about contemporary physics as well as borrowing elements used in thrillers. The plot is an international as a James Bond novel, moving from suburban home county intrigues, a polar expedition, a South American experimental site and a North American trailer park. The more enjoyable sections would be the unintentional consequences of being caught short in sub zero temperatures, and a naive comment about gender predispositions leading to vilification in all sections of the press.
Roger Allam is a perfect choice for a reader of this novel. He portrays the worldly, self interested central character extremely well and his voice is well suited to McEwans slightly misanthropic and detached narrative.
An amusing black comedy, a parable of modern consumer society and an exposition of global warming. I was surprised to enjoy my time spent with such an unpleasant main protagonist but the irony and sarcasm are perfectly British and the plot twist around a third of the way through led the story down a compelling path. I started out with some tredipation that it was going to preach but although McEwan gets the point across he leaves the humour to do the work amidst some brilliant writing and excellent narration.
This is my first McEwan book but will not be my last. It has some genuine laugh-out-loud moments framed within a great story. The author knows his art and he weaves an elegant plot around environmental issues without at any time preaching or making one feel guilty for taking up space on the planet. This is not a lecture on the controversial subject, but uses its weight only as a backdrop to the main character's at times unethical, criminal and hilariously funny conduct. Highly recommended as a well-narrated, slightly unsettling but entirely enjoyable book.
"A review of Solar by Ian McEwan"
This is hilarious in a modern satirical way, which suits the deep voice of the dead pan narrator. The serious message on green issues is given good airing and the facts and figures appear well researched, providing another great hook. The bumbling ageing farcical main character reminds me of Martin Amis' John Self in either Money or London Fields. A whole range of modern day processes are sent up, from commuting to academia. Works very well as an audio book.
"One of his best !"
I have read all Ian McEwan's books since first reading First Love, Last Rites and always look forward to a new publication. Solar is excellent. The main character Michael Beard is a self centred, foolish man who has managed to persuade the scientific world that he is an innovator but is revealed as a charlatan. He has deceived all his five wives and his current wife openly loathes him.
The humour is very ironic, almost black comedy and the denouement where he finally gets his come-uppance is achieved with the deft touch typical of Ian McEwan.
The narration by Roger Allam is perfectly matched to this gripping novel, very skilful and convincing.
Brilliant ! I shall listen to this book again.
"Good but a bit typical"
I say this becuase although I love Ian Mc books I get irritated by his seemingly sexist views on teh nature of relationships between men and women. They are overtly fantasies of his and I cant help thinking that in some way he 'gets of' on the analogies he uses when referring to 'their amazing sex life' the slipping and sliding of tongues at the most in opportune moments. It puts me off his work, despite it being brilliant in other respects. I urn for his brilliance in writing and story telling but each time I start a new one, i wait with apprehension for the tongues and the sex bits which quite frankly are unrealistic and could only be written in this precise way by a man.
It is very well read and the story is both funny and interesting - I have recommended this to a number of friends. It is well researched, mentioning a number of topics I remember being talked about on my physics degree, and I found the alternative take on what original research amusing.
The characters were really well developed and the plot developed at pace to always remain interesting.
He was perfectly suited for delivering voice of Professor Beard. It became a bit dangerous in the end - after listening to it, I found my inner monologue would occasionally switch to withering put downs in Roger's sarcastic intonation!
"Funny and gripping"
I thoroughly enjoyed this, very well narrated and with a fascinating interview with the author at the end that gives real insight into the writing process.
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