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Atlas Shrugged

A book written by the philosopher Ayn Rand

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An inspiring proclamation of the power of the human spirit

  • Nov 20, 2000
  • by
Wow! There's a considerably divisive element permeating the reviews for this book. People either think it's a laughably bad philosophy novel (which I can understand, to an extent) or an indelible story of the inevitable triumph of the human spirit through Ayn Rand's Objectivism philosophy. A lot of the reviews here seem to eschew examining the content of the book itself, and direct their comments towards the philosophy. I will not do this. I guess this is unavoidable, as the book faces the reader with several radical philosophical and political viewpoints that are bound to offend some people. But I'm going to do my best to keep my own ideas out of this. Whether or not I believe in Ayn Rand's philosophy is immaterial; I'm just hear to review the book under the parameters established for what it is - a novel.

Atlas Shrugged takes place sometime in the future (the exact year is unimportant) where most of the world's nations have adopted socialist political standpoints, with America standing as the last capitalist-oriented nation. However, as the book progresses, even America's economy is threatened, because the leading innovators and industrialists are disappearing. In fact, they are going on strike...a slightly fantastic premise, but crucial for the author to express her outlook on the world.

Even barring that fantastic element, the entire book is mostly unrealistic. Her characters are strictly black and white, either good (according to Rand's view) or evil (again, in Rand's view). Many people seem to regard this as one of the book's most consequential drawbacks. However, I actually see it as one of the book's greatest merits. Rand's characters aren't `characters' in the traditional sense; rather, they are symbols representing the gamut of elements in Rand's philosophy. For example, as a person Richard Halley the composer is not important, but what he represents is very much so (and that would be the integrity of intellectual art). The characters are not open-minded, because Rand's philosophy could not be denigrated by characteristic ambiguities. The antagonists, whom are largely the socialists, are similarly intolerant and obstinate, because they have to represent the evil in the world, again, without any equivocal elements. Rand clearly delineates the "good" and "evil" because it is imperative for her ultimate message.

Of course, some of the villains/socialists are represented very poorly - it's obvious that Ayn Rand held a very inimical view towards that perspective. A lot of them are whiny and absolutely incompetent. The others are better; they are represented as intelligent folks...but at the same time Rand conspicuously betrays the rationale behind their standpoint because it must be lucid as to who's right and who's wrong.

At times, Rand's philosophical banter can be overbearing. For instance, the MASSIVE speech near the book's conclusion where Rand's "ideal man" launches what seems to be every conceivable facet of the author's philosophy contained a few extraneous matters that were unnecessary (did it have to be sixty pages?). But at the same time, the discussions contained in this book are incredibly insightful and forces one to look at things from an all new perspective. It's completely understandable why this book is regarded as one of the century's most influential works. Whether or not you agree with some of the things that are said on its pages, you can't help but think about it. I would argue that the best books in history have been the ones that change the way we look at life.

The plot is suspenseful, and creates a sense of urgency that is usually associated with mystery novels or books heavy on violent physical confrontation. But core genus of this novel is the adjunctive philosophy. Now that I think about it (err, it's actually pretty obvious), this is really just a philosophy book with the pretension of being a novel. Either way, it's a good read, and it's one of those books that everyone needs to read at some point in their lives. Rand's idea of the ideal man is truly inspiring, and this book contains many of the most powerful passages I've ever read. You might love it, you might think it's the worst book ever written, but it WILL change you. I'm confident of that.

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More Atlas Shrugged reviews
review by . January 07, 2008
I reread Atlas shrugged, and as befits a classic, my review is even stronger this time. This time around, I read and listened to the audio book version together, highlighting key passages for their philosophical insight. There are 500 pages of a great novel, 500 pages of a comprehensive objective philosophy survey textbook, and 200 pages that could have been edited out to make this 1200 page concrete block more portable.     Still, my first review holds true: this must rate as …
review by . July 09, 2010
Who the hell is John Galt???  This is a question of desperation, and certainly hope.   Not the sort of hope in others, Not a sort of passive hope, but a hope that my own determination, resolve, understanding and implementation of that understanding will keep the world going round on a path towards exquisite rightness.  I felt disgusted by the wrongness and seemingly hopelessness of certain character groups.  I fell in love several times during this book.  I laughed, …
review by . July 23, 2010
I have read this book perhaps six or seven times over the years.  Having just read another review of it, I think it may be time to read it again.  It's the kind of book that with each reading, speaks to you differently depending on where you are in your own passage through life.      Besides setting forth an interesting philosophy of life, it develops the plot and the characters in such a way that I was immediately sucked into the story and was lost until I finished …
review by . May 06, 2009
It took me six weeks but last night I read the final sentence of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" with a huge sigh of satisfaction and a total sense of accomplishment.  If anyone is interested in reading a book of this size, I suggest buying the Cliff Notes and reading the theme and character analysis from each chapter.  It is a wonderful way to dive into the deeper meanings as well as  keep the characters straight (thank you sister Sara for that gem!).    I will be …
Quick Tip by . August 11, 2010
You don't have to be a capitalist fanatic to love this thrilling, entertaining, and provocative page-turner by the late genius, Ayn Rand.
review by . August 04, 2009
    I read "Atlas Shrugged" years ago, and have been tempted to read it again, especially now as our government is trying to totally control all economic activity based on their greed for power. All ethics should be based on freedom for each individual. I believe this is the premise that Ayn Rand is basing her philosophy, if my recollection is correct. Government pays for its greed for power by forcefully taking from hard working, successful individuals to promote their …
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
Read it twice, both times in less than a sleepless week. I think I'll read it again!
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Best book ever - hands down.
Quick Tip by . June 25, 2010
Honestly, when I even think about this book I get excited all over again. It's so moving. Every single line feels so important. So, so amazing.
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2010
I picked up this book expecting a long slog, after a few chapters I became hooked. I read, and I began to love some of the characters and the pace and breadth of the plot. Unfortunately, somewhere past the halfway point, the book seemed to morph into an extremely lengthy brief of Ms. Rand's personal ideology. Worse, the characters began to seem transparent shills for her philosophy. Read the Fountainhead, its like a thousand pages shorter and you'll get the same ideas out of it.
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Clayton Reeder ()
Ranked #434
Rogue capitalist in search of all that is interesting, weird, or beautiful.      Collected here are my hundreds of reviews from Amazon.com, covering mostly music that is offensive … more
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About this book


Atlas Shrugged is a novel by Ayn Rand, first published in 1957 in the United States. It was Rand's fourth, longest, and last novel, and she considered it her magnum opus in the realm of fiction writing. As indicated by its working title The Strike, the book explores a dystopian United States where leading industrialists and businessmen refuse to allow the government to exploit their labor for the "general good." The protagonist, Dagny Taggart, sees society collapse around her as the government increasingly asserts control over all industry, while society's most productive citizens, led by the mysterious John Galt, progressively disappear. Galt describes the strike as "stopping the motor of the world" by withdrawing the "minds" that drive society's growth and productivity; with their strike these creative minds hope to demonstrate that the economy and society would collapse without the profit motive and the efforts of the rational and productive.
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ISBN-10: 0525948929 (Centennial hbk. ed)
ISBN-13: 9780525948926 (Centennial hbk. ed)
Author: Rand, Ayn
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Date Published: April 21, 2005
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