Monday, 17 May 2010

Solar by Ian McEwan

McEwan's latest novel Solar is not in the same league as its recent predecessors. It has the same sort of template as Saturday - a domestic fiction that is couched in a topical issue. For Saturday that meant the Iraq conflict (or rather the marches in protest at it). In Solar this means climate change, or perhaps more specifically the energy crisis.

At the centre of McEwan's novel is one of the least appealing characters he has ever come up with, the old, fat, irresolute - but Nobel-winning - scientist Michael Beard. The story is about the ethical decisions he makes, tiny, seemingly inconsequential decisions he feels are at worst innocous or at best to the utilitarian benefit of others. The parallels between the procrastination or disembling of the public over the issue of clilmate change and the cumulative effect of everyday ethical misdemeanours never really takes hold and the photo-voltaics project at its heart seems a bit under-cooked. I did 'get' the recurrent theme of Heisenberg's uncertainty which runs as a parallel third thread but this seems inconsequential in the oevrall scheme and doesn't bind the others. However, the prose is original and ripe and I enjoyed reading it in the moment.

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