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One finds oneself virtually under an indefinable compulsion to keep reading once caught in the mesh of sheer story telling as Ayn Rand weaves the strands of her fantasy. With one part of reason, one tries to reject the grim horror of the portrait she draws of the final bastion of the once free world falling into a new sort of Dark Ages. The sins of the power magnates are taking their toll. In terror over the threat to their security contained in the ruthless drive of a few leaders of industry, they sell out their initiative, their imagination, their creative powers, their right to independence of thought and action to government, in exchange for imagined security of regulation and strangulation. The thinkers, the creators, the doers, the free spirits fade out of the picture; those who remain label them deserters and traitors. But a few of them, under the leadership of the freest spirits, lay the groundwork for a new social order. Their philosophy has much that will shock the conventional; their oath -- "...I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine" -- seems to contain a negation of the code of humanity. There seems a warped sort of approach to a materialistic touchstone. The insistence on the godlike quality of the leader is never quite carried out in the characterization. In fact, for this reader, most of the characters are unconvincing, overdrawn to represent symbols rather than people. This- for me- was true of The Fountainhead some 14 years ago. Then, too, the machinery of the story was compelling, fascinating; the philosophic content had something faintly phoney; the characters were two dimensional.... Atlas Shrugged holds a terrifying immediacy, if one can envision today's prosperity holding the seeds of tomorrow's decadence. Except in the isolated cases of unrealized potentials of invention, she has tapped few of the now-evident clues to our immediate mechanical future. One finds it difficult to gauge the time span here. The market? Curiosity will be high pressured by the promotion and publicity:- an unheard of advance to the author; a tremendous advertising appropriation; a spirited bidding for subsidiary rights; a predicted advance sale of 60,000 copies out of an initial 75,000 printing... The sheer size of the book -- about 1150 pages -- is a magnet for an astounding number of readers.... The story is a challenging one; the manner of the telling holds reader interest, despite the unnecessary length; there's enough of sex to provide its mead of shockers; and there is the odd allure of fantasy, a sort of science fiction appeal. And one can count, too, on a goodly number who will discuss the social philosophy with heated arguments, pro and con -- plus the intellectual snob appeal of those who like to feel they've plumbed a new code of ethics. It is not a book that leaves one unscathed.
Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1957
ISBN: 0452011876
Page count: 1168pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1957


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