It is useless to say that Ian McEwan is one of those writers that know how to write, master various styles, are very imaginative, have strong clear messages to transmit. In all his novels I had the strong feeling that he really enjoys writing.
Solar , his 2010 book confirms all these. Basically it is a comedy that satirizes academic life, militant activism, consumerism, contemporary relations, mass media, etc. The debut reminds of Tom Sharpe's Wilt series, but Solar is not as rich in comic situations. Instead, McEwan pays a lot of attention to apparently unimportant details, to almost dully aspects of daily life, to intimate feelings that the central character may have towards almost anything, towards every single situation, person or gesture. A reader from the future, let say 200 years from now, would find the book very informative if interested in the early 21st century life.
All these details considerably slow down the rhythm of the book. However, the subtle irony that stays behind them, feeds an enjoyable lecture.
On the other hand, the cornucopian details serve the main goal of the book, depicting piece by piece its message. There is a continuous display of instances on ‘human imperfection’, a ‘large subject’, as the author coins out. Solar switches from comedy to black comedy, and from slow moving description to fast action, arguing on how ordinary every person is, and how humanity actually rely on and consist from regular people and small gestures.
Since the main character of the fiction is a Noble prize winner, if you pardon the pun, I should ask myself when McEwan will finally receive a Nobel…