Reviews of Atlas Shrugged (1957)
Review by jsj1313 (2007-09-11)
Ironically, I first discovered this novel after viewing my favorite Movie, Memento. "John G" is sought after by Shelby Leonard's as the killer of his wife; when reading interpretations of the film online, Rand's novel was brought up as a possible connection.
Fortunately, I checked out Atlas Shrugged from the library the next afternoon. Although it took a few weeks for me to complete, I enjoyed the work more than any other piece of literature I have ever read.
Rand's Objectivism appealed strongly to me, as I was convinced there was something seriously wrong with the way the world was run. Her perspective on morality, laissez-faire capitalism and love all resonated with me.
This excellent prompted me to read her other magnum opus, The Fountainhead. That work ranks as my second-favorite, trailing only my introduction to Rand's works, Atlas Shrugged.
This work has made me look long and hard at becoming a writer with a philosophical agenda intertwined within my writings. I realize I have always believed what Rand advocated; I just didn't know it until I was hit in the face with it, like Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden.
If you have ever questioned the meaning of life or feel like something is missing, you should check out Atlas Shrugged.
This book could have easily been 700 pages, if edited properly. However, the 400 extra pages do not detract too much, except in the case of Galt's redundant speech. This sprawling philosophical epic is so gripping that most readers will not mind the extra length.
The other reviews are correct to varying degrees about the negative relationship of the philosophy interwoven in the novel, but it should be noted that perceptions Objectivism is not a legitimate philsophy are unfounded (www.aynrand.org).
Review by scottie (2003-08-27)
I had a love-hate relationship with this novel whilst I was reading it. I was constantly vascillating between states of elation, euphoria and .. "ok already! I get the point!", "you said that before!"
As with Sonora, I think that Atlas Shrugged would have benefited significantly with an editor. There are soporific passages that go on for dozens of pages (John Galt's epic television speech springs to mind) expounding the virtues of the philosopy of Objectivism which readers may or may not agree with.
After contemplating much of Ayn's philosophy I'm comfortable with accepting some of it but I find many fundamental flaws. Interesting I visited www.aynrandinfo.org afterwards and was surprised that most other readers appear to have interpreted her philosophy quite differently.
I suppose it is natural for readers to interpret a novel for their own purposes, but I wonder what Ayn would think about her greatest work being mis-interpreted by most of its readers.
Perhaps its _me_ who is mis-interpreting? It doesn't matter - I still got a lot out of reading this novel.
Review by mindshaft (2003-08-07)
The thing about reading this book - or any book, long or short, I suppose, that has an obscene amount of philosophical banter dispersed among the charactersí dialogue and woven throughout the plot - is that the further you get into reading it, the more philosophical your thoughts on the book become. The first time I wrote a paper on Atlas, I focused on the characters, and I now feel like I can see past that (or at least can begin to see past that to at least some minor extent).
<p>This book (and other books that I have not read, I am sure) makes you think about and question your own moral codes and beliefs. There are 4 or 5 characters that have more or less the same moral code (though expressed in different ways and manifested in different situations) that is different from the beliefs that society is turning to, and when you are reading their long thoughts about their beliefs and moral code systems, you immediately agree with them and think how unbelievably ridiculous it is that anyone could be so unintelligent as to keep up and support a system that is different from theirs. Then you take a closer look and read the lines again. In doing this, you find that the beliefs of the society are some of the beliefs of your society (taken to an extreme, but nonetheless, the roots hold firm) and you find yourself wondering if you, on an everyday basis, partake in the upkeep of the beliefs that you abhor as you are reading.
<p>You find yourself loving and empathizing with the person that, if you were watching the news, you would hate. There is a chapter in the book that deals with a man who makes the train staff run the train through the eight mile tunnel with a coal burning engine - meaning certain death for all of those aboard. At first, you find yourself despising those who stay on the job (it is against the law to quit your job, so already in thinking this you are, in effect, siding with criminals) and obey their commanding officers. You canít stand it that these people would willingly send a train full of people to their deaths because one abysmal bureaucrat has a meeting to make. You also canít stand it that they know what theyíre doing is wrong, and yet they are so indifferent to sending these people through the tunnel. Then, as the train is roaring into the tunnel, you read about all the people who are on the train, about to die. They support the law that made the workers stay on the job to send them to die. They support everything that has caused the society in which they live to come crashing down upon them, they support those moral codes which you loathe, and suddenly, you find yourself glad that they are going to die. You find yourself in the position of one of the workers who gave the signal to start the engine - you donít care about these people, your fellow humans. Itís a conflict within you, you know that itís against your moral beliefs to want someone to die, and yet you feel that this what they deserved and that you wish the rest of the believers in their system, their moral code, would also die of suffocation. That chapter was the most moving chapter that I have read in terms of internal conflict within the characters and myself; it made me want to vomit and it nearly moved me to tears.
<p>There are some things (most things) that I still have a hard time grasping. One thing that used to bother me about the way that Rand wrote was how she never defined the characterís feelings. The phrases "She felt some feeling which she could not describe," and "He could not put his finger on the feeling he was feeling" roughly describe some of the ways that she doesnít tell me how the character is feeling. Now, though, instead of annoying me, when Rand says, "she felt some shape which she could not grasp," I can very much relate. How can I relate to that when it once was a nuisance? Because of reading this book, I feel that same indefinable feeling that comes from trying to know and understand (or knowing and understanding) something so big and so deep that the instant you are conscious of knowing and understanding, you cease to know and understand, and all you are left with is that unidentifiable shape that you know was amazing and profound, that shape that you have failed to grasp. You want to grasp it very much, and itís unnerving to know that you canít. Itís just beyond your reach and your scope of understanding, and it makes you feel kind of silly for reading a book that you canít understand. Iím going to read this book several more times in hopes that with age and experience, I will be able to grasp some of the things that I canít right now.
<p>Maybe I canít understand the things that I would like to, but I can still appreciate Randís writing. There is something about it that combines the engineering (what an honest, noble word) and the structure of the railroads and the steel mills and the metal and the concrete logical thought processes with the immensity and ambiguity of nature and air and spirituality. She has the ability to mold these two aspects together, when talking about the characters and the business that they run and the conflicts that they face, with such ease that you donít really realize when she shifts from talking about the logic to talking about the trees. Itís a good idea that has been introduced to us by the transcendentalist thinking of Thoreau and Emerson - nature is combined with everything, and things are tied together no matter how you try to separate them into categories. Itís not the central theme of the book, by far, but the descriptions of the landscapes and the horizons and the scenery somehow capture and reflect the abysmal deeds that are going on in the world. As the society begins to break down, there are fewer descriptions of the beauty in the world, and more descriptions of the ugly and appalling.
Review by diomedes (2003-03-24)
Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand's masterpiece; it is important regardless of it's favor in the present day. While Marx depends upon the abandonment of self interest as human impulse, Rand depends upon its elevation to the primary impulse. Both systems are serious, important, and impossible.
Review by Sonora (2003-03-09)
Good book. Bad politics. Rand badly needed an editor of this book, as the lectures(boring, basde on flawed philosophy)go on for days. The basic premise is that the workers and creators of things in thw world go on strike, and the dependent masses cease to function.
Elitist doesn't even begin to describe it.
Review by OmegaGX (2003-03-08)
This book is so controversial that it is either loved or hated as can be demonstrated in the above reviews. I have yet to find a person who was completely indifferent to it and as such it's a must read. It definitely has a lot of insights and regardless of what people say it is very influential.
Review by ledzepp461 (2003-03-08)
I don't really care about how this books relates to Rand's political/social/economic idealogy, but as a novel it didn't really work for me. I see it has been described as "preachy" and that's exactly the problem I faced. I wanted to read and interpret for myself, yet I felt like Rand was constantly driving her point home for the entire 1000+ pages! I understood her point, but she kept making that point over and over and over and over at the expense of the story.
Review by aem (2003-03-08)
Self-absorbed and misanthropic characters, much like the author. Well-liked by those who seek a ready-made philosophy, don't have the stomach for self-analysis, and want justification for their self-centered worldview.
Review by nostromo (2003-03-08)
Decent as a mystery novel/story, but terrible as a political novel. Mrs. Rand utilizes far too many heavy-handed, almost bludgeon like, narrative rants by major characters to make the case for her political beliefs.
Review by carnstar (2003-03-07)
This book changed my life. I have since read the book (around 1000 pages) several times. A must read for any american intellectual. Check out Amazon.com's reviews for this book.
Review by CountessFenrig (2003-03-07)
a tour de force. An all time masterpiece of American literature. It's only failing is possibly it's length but this is a minor failing. A must read for everyone and anyone.
Review by abiggnuthrush (2003-03-07)
An important book of ideas that should be considered carefully, but not great literature. Rand expands on her earlier, superior work, The Fountainhead, but fails to add anything significant. Much of the story is compelling, but Galt's lengthy speech proves to be crippling and almost unreadable. For pages upon pages, Galt repeats himself with one metaphor or example after another in a climax that is as pointless as it is repetiive.
Review by galuk (2003-03-07)
Rand's unrealistic characters and poorly disguised political/philosophical rhetoric turned me off. I believe that her earlier work, The Fountainhead, is better because it is a good story and not as much an exposition of her personal philosophy.
Review by elrusoloco (2003-03-07)
Rand's characters, to paraphrase her own words, show human beings "as they ought to be," and because of this may appear to be unrealistic. It is difficult to relate to some of them, as they are drawn as exaggerations of the best and worst in humanity. This does make them even more compelling and powerful and the story that much more effective. This is a work of fiction only as far as it serves to put forth the philosophy of Objectivism, a way of life that this reviewer has found to be more meaningful, rewarding, and fulfilling than any religion or way of thought. At the risk of repeating what so many before have said - this is a book that anyone seeking to improve the life of another person should recommend to him. Agree with it or not, it is impossible to live your life unchanged without reading it.
Review by godel (2003-03-07)
Poor literature, "Atlas Shrugged" is a work of political propaganda. [http://personal.riverusers.com/~thegrendel/atlas.html] The book's only significance is its use by Ayn Rand as a means to disseminate her philosophy of Objectivism. Both Ayn Rand and Objectivism have a facinating past that should be known before reading this book. [http://www.friesian.org/rand.htm]
Anyone interested in Objectivism (either for or against) would be well-served by reading a bit about philosphy [http://www.friesian.org/moral-1.htm] and the work of Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell who took logic to an extreme in the Principia Mathematica. [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/principia-mathematica/]
The average reader would not benefit from reading "Atlas Shrugged." Instead, it is better suited for philosophers and historians.
Review by god (2003-03-07)
This book was simple minded propaganda for Rand's philosophy of greed. There is little character development, everything is expressed in absurdly simplistic terms or right and wrong based on the authors skewed view of the world. This makes for very repetitive and predictable reading. The payoff at the end, where the mystery of John Galt is revealed, is laughable and Miss Rand's obvious inclusion of herself into this scenario is completely disjointed and absurd. You might enjoy this book if you think Gordon Gecko was a good and morally upright kind of guy, otherwise save yourself the pain of reading this garbage.
Review by klsnyders (2003-03-07)
Man, what a grinder of a book! Page after page of preaching, repetitive redundant preaching.
And yet -- the book always acts on me like a cool, bracing breeze. It restores my faith in humanity -- a little bit -- and makes me feel like a true meritocracy is impossible, but striving for it is not quite so futile... I re-read this book every few years when I need relief from the perpetually needy and moral wafflers. A sprawling, sometimes tedious, generally brilliant manifesto.