A REVIEW OF AYN RAND'S 1957 SCI-FI EPIC
What moves the world? That is the question explored in more 1000 pages of the epic masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. An action-based drama filled with philosophy about political and institutional horrors, Rand delights the readers with grit, adventure, and romance. Protagonist Dagney Taggart is an heiress to a family railroad dynasty who must battle her deceitful and altogether incapable brother from behind the scenes for the railroad’s survival. In an era ripe with political cronyism, rampant corruption has threatened the foundation of the country. Dagney is determined to salvage dignity, honor, and, most importantly, her railroad, as it faces the possibility of a hostile takeover by the government, which believes private self-interest should acquiesce to interests of the nation.
There is an assorted cast of ne’er-do-wells and heroes, highlighted by a pirate, a gambler, and the mythical enemy named John Galt, whom Dagney has determined to conquer. Prose and philosophy battle it out as Dagney treks across the country on her train, trying to beat out looming disaster by finding the inventor of a secret motor she discovered in an abandoned mid-western factory. As ghost towns begin to increasingly litter the landscape, she hopes that the inventor will finish building the motor, harnessing the power of renewable energy to reignite the flame of a economically dying country.
When a hot-blooded, morally-rooted woman sets her lustful sight on saving the world, it is a prolific adventure indeed. Rand sets out to prove that selfish ambition is the path to prosperity, amply professing that it is vital to mankind’s happiness and survival to protect our ability to earn the fruit of our own labor, which she describes as Love, and notates using the symbol, $. If the conversation on whether the free market is truly the way to know what society loves, and you are tempted to judge Rand’s philosophy by her famous followers instead of reading her books, it is important to keep in mind that Rand did not believe in violence as a means to achieve objectives, except in self defense.
Will reason overrule illogical premises rooted in contradictory ideas to save Dagney’s railroad? Or, will institutional treason hold out and defeat all hope? Most importantly, is it selfish, or it selfless for Dagney to follow her personal ambition to save a family empire? Whichever way you call it, after you read this wonderfully written love story, you will understand why the debate continues on whether to blame the failure of capitalism on the irrational premise that man is rational, or on the inability of society to maintain a truly free-market.