I finished reading Atlas Shrugged last night. It took me five months, but only because for the first two I was reading several other books and not giving it my full attention. Finally, however, I came to the end (and I want to know what happened to Eddie Willers. I mean, really?), and my mother made me promise to write a review about it. So here it is.
Atlas Shrugged seems, without exception, to be one of those books that is met with only one of two reactions--on the one hand, hatred to rival that afforded Hitler, or a mindless sort of love that equals that given to Mouch's policies amongst the unthinking rabble. I'm going to be the odd woman out and strike a middle road.
While I agree with Rand in some respects (I do believe that a government that keeps itself to the defense of life, liberty, and property is the best sort of government), much of her analysis struck me as simplistic and, at times, downright unrealistic. She, along with most of the people who love her book so ardently, failed to realize that what she was dealing with were fictional characters who were living in a fictional world. Of course they behave in a certain way. They were written that way. The way most of them behave would be entirely ridiculous in the real world; to expect every member of her society to behave in exactly the same manner, no matter the world around them sounds like some sort of really bad twist in a modern YA dystopian novel.
Which, of course, leads to the fact that all the "bad guys" think exactly the same way, and so do the "good guys". Despite her vociferous rejection of the absolutist thought that gives rise to the ideas of Thompson, Mouch, and Co., John Galt, Inc. does exactly the same thing. Except, of course, under the guise of being good and righteous, because making money is the only thing that is moral in the world. In essence, one can only be a good sort of person if one is just like John Galt, and is utterly and completely brilliant. Rand, and Galt with her, are rigidly absolutists when it comes to their ideas. In essence, either you are with them, or you are against them, and no thought that does not agree with their's can be permitted--which is the essence of tyranny. It may not be the tyranny of the looters, but it is still tyranny.
In addition, Rand seems to think that, so long as you can come up with some wonder product that you can give to the world, you will be acknowledged for your amazing talent and immediately given a place among the highest of the high...despite the fact that real life doesn't work that way, and never has. Capitalism is not a meritocracy any more than socialism is.
All of that isn't even touching on the flat characters that clogged the pages of this book. The story was reasonably engaging, but I couldn't get past Dagny's meek submission to every "worthy" man that came along, and the fact that every single "thinking" person worded their "thoughts" exactly the same way. Whether on the side of the looters or the side of the mighty paragons of business virtue, they all articulated exactly the same thoughts in exactly the same way, without pause or dissension.
So, it gets three stars because it managed to hold my attention throughout most of its 1,000 pages. I could have done without the 80-page speech that was a thinly-veiled rant against religion, but we readers can't have everything.