New McEwan Novel Has Science, Lacks Heart

Ian McEwan's new novel, Solar, which will be released this week, is about a Nobel Prize-winning physicist for whom living is something less than a science. It's a good example of a serious British writer trying to join the worlds of science and culture. In fact, there's a lot of science in it, but not much heart.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

The award-winning author Ian McEwan has a new book out this week. It's about a Nobel-winning physicist who finds that living is something less than a science. Alan Cheuse has this review of "Solar."

ALAN CHEUSE: The main character, Michael Beard, has won a Nobel Prize some years before this novel opens. He hasn't done much since except mess up yet another marriage - his fifth - and try to pick up a lot of women and eat a lot. As head of a new British institute studying climate change, he's floundering. He messes up his life even further by covering up the death of a younger colleague who was having an affair with his estranged wife.

But as comedy sometimes has it, things go in this book from worse to bad, and Beard makes his way almost all the way back to the top of the Nobel heap. As much as McEwan displays his talent for character-making in this portrait of a physicist as a deceitful roly-poly man, he still depends on plot to carry us along.

I don't want to give the plot away, except to say that the timeframe in this book compared to McEwan's other novels is a bit messy, and compared to his best-known work, "Atonement," it seems a little arbitrary. So, I'm not exactly pushing this book toward you and saying, take it and read it, please. It is a good example of a serious British writer trying to join the worlds of science and culture. In fact, there's a lot of science in it but not as much heart as I would have liked.

NORRIS: "Solar" is the new novel from Ian McEwan. Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse.

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