“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged(Author: Ayn Rand) + (Year: 1957) + (Goodreads)

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Review:

This is probably going to be one of the reviews I’ll have the hardest time writing. The reason is that while Atlas Shrugged is a blatant piece of philosophical propaganda and a manifesto of Rand’s views, and as appalling it might be as such in certain moments, it is not fully without merit and I am not 100% opposed to her ideas.

I am not even sure why, but I’ve had Atlas Shrugged for years, and for some insane reason, I thought that this was one of those must-read contemporary classics that everybody loves. It was only after I had read a chapter or two, that I actually decided to read the reviews on Goodreads and I realized that I was sadly mistaken, and on the contrary, this book has many fans, but is also deeply hated by many.

As an overview of the actual story, Atlas Shrugged is set in an undetermined time period in which most of the countries of the world have been destroyed by wars and very few are still producing anything, mainly the ones in the Americas, while Europe is poor and devastated and relies on the charity of the States. At such a time, the big industrialists of America are trying to keep their companies afloat among many ridiculous laws, which force them to equalize their production with smaller companies. Suddenly, most of the biggest and brightest minds of the country start disappearing one by one and the last stand against all of this destruction is made by the owner of a metal company, Hank Rearden, and a train company heiress, Dagny Taggart.

Right, so far so good. This story, however, takes place in over a thousand pages, and for the most part, not much happens. Now, you have to keep in mind that Atlas Shrugged is a manifesto. Therefore, there’s an insanely large amount of preaching, and a much smaller amount of things happening. The entire first part of the book is train schedules, train rides, pouring of metal, arguing over rails and trains, and laying rails for trains. This made the book very hard to get into, and ultimately, it remains just as hard to finish. I imagine that getting through Atlas Shrugged feels kind of like swallowing sand.

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So, why weren’t the characters more appealing, or interesting enough to drive the story and make it more engaging for the reader? Why, because:

  • All of the characters are black and white manifestation of Rand’s purpose for them. Industrialists are good, we like industrialists. Therefore, they are attractive, well-dressed, well-behaved, rebellious, clever, intelligent, creative. The enemy, let’s call them the leeches, are ugly, stupid, lacking talent, don’t have a creative bone in their body, don’t have any idea what they are doing, aside from giving orders which are bad for the industrialists and the future of the world.
  • Women are usually weak, stupid and manipulative. The only exception is Dagny Taggart, who is also the prize female for all of the smart capitalist men. Aside from a pretty actress, Dagny is the only female who earns a place among the capitalists in their Atlantis, and most certainly the only one who does it because she is also smart and hard-working.
  • Capitalist men, however, are all dashing, ridiculously smart, and capable of saving the world. They, therefore, deserve to own everything in the world, including women. Sex, in that case, is owed, rather than simply desired. And since selfishness is the highest of all virtues in Rand’s world, sex is also done in a selfish, almost forceful way. More so, since Dagny is the only woman worthy of standing by the side of the great capitalist men, she is to be passed around between the best of them, because the purpose of her existence is to be with the strongest and most intelligent man and form no attachment or affiliation with any other.

From the point of view of Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, the worst thing that a person can possibly do, is make a sacrifice. In such case, giving anything to anyone and taking something from your own self in the process, is a sin against human nature. Also, any person who comes up with an idea, therefore has the right to abuse the control they have over their own idea and do with it as they may. Therefore, a capitalist who manages to create a product, has the right to offer this product in a way that no one but the richest of the world can buy.

Now, here comes the moment where I can both agree and disagree. My issue with the philosophy of the book is that it goes from one end of the spectrum to the total opposite one. Pure evil vs complete good. There is no place for modification and moderation. So, I would not support the right of the government to confiscate anything it wants and steal it from its owners. Taking control over all patents, for example, would be something I would not agree with. However, using patents to make products and gain ridiculous amounts of money while not allowing the poor access to the product, is also something that I don’t think is right. For example, if a doctor develops a vaccine against cancer and the doctor decides to sell it at the price of 100 million dollars, therefore, making it available to only the richest, I would think that that’s a form of evil on its own. In Rand’s world, however, that would not only be acceptable, but also be the most logical decision, firstly, because it was the doctor’s idea and it’s therefore his own right to decide the price, and secondly, because it is such a big contribution to the world, that it should only be shared with people who can match it in value.

According to Rand, there should be no social security, no charity, no welfare, nothing, that is common to all. I, too, don’t think that, for example, people who have never contributed to society and don’t want or plan to do it in the future, deserve to live comfortably, while someone else is breaking their back from work and paying taxes honestly. I do think, however, that if a person is temporarily out of a job, because of events out of his or her control, they should be allowed to receive money from the government while looking for another job. See, the difference between these two situations is in nuances. And nuances are something that Ayn Rand doesn’t accept or see: If you don’t make millions, you might as well go and die somewhere, because you sure as hell don’t deserve to live off the back of the noble capitalist heroes who are the pillars of the society.

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Simultaneously, while I think that Atlas Shrugged is the epitome of a misguided, materialistic philosophy, I can’t help but admire Rand’s ability to write such a manifesto. The book might not be the most exciting one and I might not agree with the author’s ideals, but she is, undoubtedly, a masterful writer who has the ability to make an impression, and more so, do that in a language which is not her native. To me, that is the most admirable part of her writing talent. The book was probably heavily edited, but nevertheless, for a Russian emigrant in the first half of the 20th century, Ayn Rand managed to master the English level in an amazing way.

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“Injection, Vol. 2” by Warren Ellis

Injection, Vol. 2 (Injection, #2)(Author: Warren Ellis) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)

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Review:

I was pretty excited to read the second volume of Injection, but I must admit it was a disappointment.

Everything that I found interesting and worthwhile in the first volume was gone here. The new main character, Vivek Headland, was rather boring and overrated and the rest of the characters had basically no space to develop.

The story itself started out from something interesting, the Injection, and morphed into a dull saga of Headland’s peculiarities and strange sexual tastes. Add to that several long and boring monologues and a few random shooting sprees, and you are as far away from what was originally interesting in this story, as you can be.

The art was not as impressive either, mainly because it changed focus from interesting manifestations of the Injection to sex scenes and thugs.

I see how to some the mix of a world-changing virus, ghosts and cannibalism might be interesting, but for me it was over the top while actually not giving anything of value to the reader.

I might have completely lost interest in the series, unfortunately.

“The Wicked + The Divine: Imperial Phase I” by Kieron Gillen

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 5: Imperial Phase I(Author: Kieron Gillen) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Well… this was not good. Considering that WicDiv has had ups and downs before, I hope that it will still get better. However, what I see is that the story is getting closer to its end and I feel that the writers are getting tired. Even the characters seem to have exhausted their fun potential and are becoming more and more unpleasant.

The Great Darkness plot is generally worthy of a main story-line, but unfortunately, it seems to be relying entirely too much on the characters, rather than the actual force of evil that’s threatening them. This entire issue was about the characters reacting to their impending doom and them growing, or not, in the face of danger.

I can say that I honestly don’t like Laura. She was kind of annoying at the beginning of the series, but now she’s openly a pain in the ass. All of her shenanigans seem kind of pointless because the only person she ever hurts is herself. Yet, she seems driven to be a bad person every single time.

On the contrary, I used to dislike Baal and to often see him as an useless accessory to the story, but in this volume I found him a lot more likeable. Same goes to Cassandra who was basically the only person making any kind of sense in Imperial Phase.

I’m pretty sure I will continue reading, as I want to finish the series, but I will keep my hopes up that it will get better, because the current situation is not good.

* As always, the art was amazing.

“Impossible Views of the World” by Lucy Ives

Impossible Views of the World(Author: Lucy Ives) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

This was the first book I received from Penguin Books on NetGalley and I was very happy about it. Add to that the interesting premise of a museum and a mysterious map of a magical settlement, as well as the beautiful cover, which reminded me of The Grand Budapest Hotel movie cover, and I was hooked.

Unfortunately, the book is anything but exciting. For starters, the main character was a strange, self-contradictory woman, who was as hard to like for me, as she was for all the rest of the characters. She seemed to possess mainly negative qualities, and most of all, she was rude and judgmental to the other characters, yet extremely gullible when it came to the museum heartthrob who managed to get her interest, despite being a very obvious sleazebag.

Also, story-wise, there were two separate stories which had nothing to do with each other, aside from being connected to the main character, Stella, and they kept pulling the main story in different directions, making it scattered and unbalanced.

The map story was very naive, childish and not really interesting to follow, and the story of Stella’s private life was just so out of place in terms of the book, that while finding it somewhat more interesting, I felt awkward reading about it, because it so obviously did not belong in the book, at all.

The writing itself was not to my liking either. To some it might have been clever, but to me it seemed very pretentious. There’s nothing bad about using a rich vocabulary, but it just seemed very forced and ostentatious, like a teenager trying to sound smart at a college party.

“Mythic, Vol. 1” by Phil Hester

Mythic, Volume 1(Author: Phil Hester) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Unfortunately, this year’s Image comics Humble Bundle was a bit of a let down. I mean… if you haven’t read most of these, the prize is definitely worth it. However, they have been including the same volumes for the last two years, so there was almost nothing for me there.

Aaand this is where Mythic comes in. This was the only volume from the bundle that actually interested me, so I read it separately hoping for something fresh and groovy.

It didn’t live up to the expectations.

A group of mythical heroes, deities and gods gets together as a supernatural SWAT team. What could go wrong? A lot, apparently. The characters were rather flat and way too many. There wasn’t really much space for us to get to know them. Some of the characters got barely any introduction and the ones that did have a more detailed back story were just a few. At the end of issue #7, for example, it was mentioned that we will learn more about Asha. What we actually got in issue #8 were a few self-introductory sentences of the type of “I am powerful! I am life! You can’t kill me.” Dr. Baranski was an equally as underdeveloped character. It was entirely too convenient how she was and how her story went. And her entire personality was so over-exaggerated, that I couldn’t buy her motives at all.

The art was okay, nothing too spectacular or out of the box, but still pretty and detailed. The characters looked kind of old-school, but it was tolerable for the most part. I didn’t particularly like the depictions of human faces, because a lot of the time it was hard to distinguish certain characters.

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On the other hand, the logo on the cover is really cool!