Ayn Rand's long-winded opus Atlas Shrugged is the most contrived novel I have ever read. I wonder why so many people esteem the author as a political visionary when her writing is so obviously formulaic.
Rand is much loved by capitalists because of her moral justification of selfishness and philosophical promotion of rugged individualism. She detests socialism and any ideology of coerced collectivity. She believes in progress through the free-enterprise system. Unfortunately, her political aspirations take driver's seat in her novel Atlas Shrugged, while characterization, plot, and other narrative features integral to effective fiction are stashed back in the trunk.
She can definitely write--there's no question about that. But is Atlas Shrugged an example of good fiction? Is it a good novel?
I say: NO. Here's why: Rand manipulates the conventions of fiction in order to make her political philosophy seem compelling and plausible. This is most obvious when she must invent a utopia--an actual physical place, located in the Rockies and protected by a space-age force field--where only the best and the brightest have dedicated their lives to perfecting their inventions. The place is utterly unreal. The movers and shakers who live there are more like cardboard cutouts of 19th-century entrepreneurs stoking the flames of the industrial revolution than 20th-century capitalists..
Which leads me to my next point: characterization. Actually, I like Rand's female characters, especially the bitchy Lillian Reardon. But the main characters are so industrious, so attractive, so utterly perfect in everything they do and believe in, that, like with the utopia "Galt's Gulch," they just don't ring true as flesh and blood human beings..
Consider the "star" of the novel, the mythical "John Galt." He is in every way, shape, and form a "Great Man." He's also quite the stud. Surely he could be "great" and have a hanging gut or a lisp or a receding hairline, but no: Rand makes him attractive in all respects--she is pushing for myth here, not reality--and, of course, the book's protagonist, Dagny Taggart, falls passionately in love with him.
Dagny is herself a stereotype: young, smart, assertive, driven, and physically attractive. She's such a catch that two men, both hunky entrepreneurs, fall for her. And apparently she's quite good in bed--so much so that, after a night of wild abandon with her first guy, the unhappily married Hank Rearden, she feels the need to sit down and philosophize about the experience, providing theoretical justification for her apparently kinky proclivities.
Yawwwwn... Atlas Shrugged is a long, hefty read with a lot of ponderous syntax.