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Solar | [Ian McEwan]

Solar

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Michael Beard is fast approaching 60, a mere shell of the academic titan he once was. While his fifth marriage falls apart, Michael suddenly finds himself with an unexpected opportunity to reinvigorate his career and possibly save humankind from the growing threat of global warming.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Some people deserve everything horrible that happens to them. Michael Beard is definitely one of those people. Booker prize-winner Ian McEwan (Atonement, Saturday) has created the self-centered, loathsome character of Beard for his latest satirical novel, Solar, but you don’t really get the full effect of Beard’s appalling narcissism unless you listen to Roger Allam’s performance of the book.

Allam has one of those precise, slightly-condescending, upper-crust English accents that perfectly suits Beard’s character. You can clearly imagine Beard looking down his nose at everything the mere mortals around him say or do as Allam intones McEwan’s carefully chosen words. An award-winning stage actor who has also appeared in dozens of movies (The Queen, V for Vendetta) and television dramas, Allam specializes in portraying authoritative men with commanding stage presences. And like any great actor, Allam also manages to make us feel sympathetic for Beard — a pompous, adulterous, Nobel Prize-winning physicist — despite his monumental character flaws.

Without giving too much of the book’s ingenious plot away, Solar revolves around Beard’s marital troubles and his quest to discover an alternative energy source. Sounds noble on the surface, but Beard only really seems to care about finding a fashionable subject to research…while receiving a lucrative, six-figure paycheck for doing as little work as possible. The book may seem to jump at times from one location to the next, but McEwan weaves all the plotlines together in the final, brilliant chapter, set in the New Mexico desert. In the end, Beard — and patient listeners — are justly rewarded by McEwan in his latest, most amusing novel to date. — Ken Ross

Publisher's Summary

Universally acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest novelists, Ian McEwan is a Booker Prize-winning, best-selling literary master. He displays a fresh facet of his considerable talent in Solar, a satirical novel rife with blistering humor.

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Michael Beard is fast approaching 60, a mere shell of the academic titan he once was. While his fifth marriage falls apart, Michael suddenly finds himself with an unexpected opportunity to reinvigorate his career and possibly save humankind from the growing threat of global warming.

This audio includes an exclusive interview with the author.

©2010 Ian McEwan (P)2010 Recorded Books, LLC

What the Critics Say

"A comedy every bit as brilliant as its title might suggest....Blazing with imaginative and intellectual energy, Solar is a stellar performance." (Sunday Times, London)

“A stunningly accomplished work, possibly [McEwan’s] best yet.” (Financial Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (310 )
5 star
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3.6 (125 )
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4.0 (123 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    laura NYC 04-14-10
    laura NYC 04-14-10 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
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    "Often hilarious"

    Narrator does a great job with it, frequently laugh out loud funny. The protagonist is fairly despicable--you have to be willing to spend a lot of time with a raving egotist (but eventually everything catches up with him). McEwan can get bogged down in the science, which is the novel's main fault.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Preston Pate NC 04-09-10
    Preston Pate NC 04-09-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Solar"

    The written version may have been better, but I seriously doubt it. An endless connection, or disconnection, of metaphors and painful detail about a very boring protagonist in a failed attempt at humor.

    4 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Alta Loma, CA, USA 05-24-10
    Susan Alta Loma, CA, USA 05-24-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Painful listening"

    I tried. I really tried to like this book, but just couldn't find any redeeming characteristics. Didn't like the characters, the plot, nor the narrator. Maybe it just didn't lend itself well as an audiobook. Can't understand the rave reviews from critics. I have never deleted an audiobook before, but I finally got so fed up I just couldn't take it anymore and did just that. Felt pretty good, I must say.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William San Pablo, CA, United States 04-02-10
    William San Pablo, CA, United States 04-02-10 Member Since 2007
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    "What a disappointment"

    This is very slow moving book. It purports to be witty and humerus? However, the humor is juvenile and in most cases not very funny. I would recommend you save your money and buy another book.

    22 of 39 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. A. Cameron United States 10-01-13
    C. A. Cameron United States 10-01-13 Member Since 2010

    catheriamjourneywoman

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    13
    8
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    "McEwan's masterful prose an illuminating sizzler"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    In USA? College degrees required to enjoy this read, hedge fund managers and those of an entrepreneurial bent should find revealing. Anyone booking academic lecture series, this is required reading. No, really. In UK? Everyone. Even footballer's wives (whllst getting nails done). Salman Rusdie probably sleeps with it under his pillow.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Patrice, now that I think of it, her of the red-lipped, scented Friday night departures. "Why" would be giving too much away. And McEwan wrote a memorable and alarmingly accurate Darlene, brief yet ripe and potent. Oh, rats. I have to say the Professor. He's so ... words fail. I really do refuse to "reveal" the plot as the reveal in this particular book is all. Fascinated, compelling, horrorfied, while laughing so hard my bike almost hurled off road.


    Have you listened to any of Roger Allam and Ian McEwan ’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No. Mr Allam and his mellow tones are new to me and gosh, I thought for the longest time the narrator was Michael Gambon! Dead ringer! Brilliant narration; spot on. My fellow 'murricans may be lost ("euw, he had this weird accent,,,") but the UK crowd will lap his narration up like double cream on rhubarb crumble. And quite right, too.


    Who was the most memorable character of Solar and why?

    Well, the Professor proves memorable in his ability to live a 100% selfish life unadulturated by concern, care, interest or compassion for either a single living being once they have served whatever purpose he has momentarily brought them into his life, or, our strife-ridden planet. The spotlight (I hesitate to say 'sunlight') is all on the Professor, so, shuddering slightly, he wins by default.


    Any additional comments?

    Not for the faint of literary heart nor anyone whose lips move whilst reading Danielle Steel. Yet for anyone who marvels at the intricacies and imaginative miracles wrought by masterful Ian McEwan's astonishing and witty pen. Er, keyboard. Descriptions, travels, narrations, observations, speeches, dialogue .... it's all there, the vast wealth of the English language in every single line and this delightful writers assists me to see it anew.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R porter Santa Cruz, CA, United States 04-23-13
    R porter Santa Cruz, CA, United States 04-23-13
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    "Masterful writing performed by terrific reader"
    If you could sum up Solar in three words, what would they be?

    Scientist cuts corners to get his way, personally and professionally


    What other book might you compare Solar to and why?

    none


    Which character – as performed by Roger Allam and Ian McEwan – was your favorite?

    protagonist


    Any additional comments?

    Combines best of British literature with an equally good reading

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MG Albuquerque, NM, United States 03-23-13
    MG Albuquerque, NM, United States 03-23-13 Member Since 2008
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    "I did not enjoy this book"

    I didn't find this book funny or interesting. It is a book in which nothing happens, no suspense is built, and has no likeable characters. I didn't crack a smile - maybe I just missed the whole point. I forced myself to listen to the end hoping to find something to redeem my time and credits, but found nothing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Ithaca, NY, United States 09-25-12
    Michael Ithaca, NY, United States 09-25-12

    Physicist

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "+1 overall in light of tech company patent wars"
    If you could sum up Solar in three words, what would they be?

    Science, Patents, Technology


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Made everything clear. Be sure to listen to interview with the author.


    What about Roger Allam and Ian McEwan ’s performance did you like?

    Roger Allam is a native Britian. In the story he throws on an American accent for some characters. The result is interesting and laudible.


    If you could rename Solar, what would you call it?

    Squander


    Any additional comments?

    This story depicts how a technological solution to climate change is squandered by the character flaws of its inventor, the greed of others, and the unfortunate consequences of patent law. This story reminds me of the patent wars between the big tech companies.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Miguel Cheswick, PA, US 09-09-12
    Miguel Cheswick, PA, US 09-09-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Science, sex, lies, fame, humanity."
    What did you love best about Solar?

    Excellent scientific documentation. Good plot, with real-like characters. History has value as a current issue.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Solar?

    When the main character, Michael Beard, decides to change the situation of the accidental death of his wife's lover into a murder committed by his other wife's lover.


    What about Roger Allam and Ian McEwan ’s performance did you like?

    Excellent!


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Nobel prize winers are only too human...


    Any additional comments?

    It reminded me of two other books: "The Prize", by Irving Wallace", and "Cantor's dilemma", by Carl Djerassi. Both of them, excellent and also highly recommendable

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roswatheist Dexter, New Mexico, United States 06-23-12
    Roswatheist Dexter, New Mexico, United States 06-23-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Funniest Intelligent Read Since THHG"
    Would you listen to Solar again? Why?

    I will definitely listen to Solar again. The protagonist is so brilliantly written, that while I'd hate him in real life, I can still sympathize with him.


    What other book might you compare Solar to and why?

    The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy comes instantly to mind, since it's funny and you don't feel like an idiot when you close it on the last page.


    Which character – as performed by Roger Allam and Ian McEwan – was your favorite?

    Beard


    If you could take any character from Solar out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I'd take Beard out-sounds like a fun drinking companion.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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