Everyone loves a good dose of politics. Whether it’s peer circles in school or teenage fraternities, big corporate houses or government bodies controlling entire states and countries, politics has been the one constant thrilling force driving these bandwagons. And no one knows this better than Ayn Rand.
In her book Atlas Shrugged, Ms.Rand explores the core depths of themes and philosophical theories such as socialism, altruism, communism and fascism, all through the lives of her extreme, to a point almost unbelievable characters. The book takes the form of a captivating thriller which Rand uses to lure readers in, and the vicious consistency with which she supports her beliefs throughout the book leaves it’s readers mindless and confused, between what the social acceptance of the world has taught them is right opposed to what a few extremists believe is right.
Rand is relentless in her insistence that fascism is not only fair but also required for progress in the world, and by twitching and poking at the better sense of the conscience of her readers, she creates a sadistically pleasurable reading experience for them, taking them on a joy ride that they may not like but can’t stop themselves from taking.
The story of Atlas Shrugged is set in an unknown period in the USA, when there is a significant collapse in the economic stability of the country and the people’s faith in the government’s semi-dictatorial leadership alike. The main character in the story is a brilliant businesswoman by the name of Dagny Taggart. Strong, desirable, and a fundamentalist by core, Dagny is hellbent on beating the system and finding a way to fight the economic crisis facing the country. Vice-President of a big railroad company called Taggart Transcontinental, she is at constant loggerheads with her brother, James Taggart, who seems more concerned with the social depression around him than the deteriorating business and situation of Taggart Transcontinental, of which he happens to be the President.
In an attempt to save her business, Dagny wants to build a railway line called the Rio Norte line leading out of Colorado, which is the only remaining healthy industry in the world. Colorado is booming thanks to Ellis Wyatt’s specialized oil factory, to whom Dagny plans on providing transport and first hand logistic assistance. Going against her brother’s request to use the steel produced by his friend, Orren Boyle, Dagny gives the contract to Hank Rearden, a highly intelligent steel producer who has produced a patented metal called Rearden Metal which Dagny believes to be of a superior quality to regular steel, despite the common public opinion.
The worsening economic situation is playing to the depressive pits of the people, and the question “Who is John Galt” is becoming a widespread celebrity hand in hand with it’s curiosity and controversy. The question was meant to imply a question to which no one has the answer, just the same as no one has the answer to the the economic situation and sufferings of the people. The disappearance of some of the most brilliant minds, inventors, artists and industrialists right after suddenly retiring simply adds to the increasing pessimism of the people.
In an attempt to keep Rearden’s metal off the market after several failures to do so by blackmail, the state government issues a baseless statement devoid of any factual evidence, pointing out that the metal has several weaknesses. In response to the statement Taggart stocks crash and the Rio Norte Line project falls through the floorboards, but Dagny and Rearden, in an insolent effort to defy the government, take on the project single handedly, and complete it successfully.
With things starting to look up for Dagny and Rearden, they set out on a lover’s adventure across the country, driving around looking at abandoned factories. In one such instance, they stumble upon a goldmine of an invention, a machine that can convert atmospheric static electricity to kinetic energy. Knowing that this machine is the future of railroad power, Dagny submits herself to a relentless hunt for the inventor of the machine. Her search leads her to a man named John Galt, who is not only the creator of the genius machine but also the man responsible for the destruction of society through the disappearance of it’s top men and minds.
Galt, a dominant yet charming fascist, is planning a strike of the greatest men in the country against the government and state bodies. His passionate driven nature lures Dagny’s heart and she falls in love with him. One day, Galt gains control of radio air and informs citizens of the ‘men of the minds’ are on strike and refuse to work under the rule of the dictatorship, stating that they need freedom to live their own lives and enjoy their own profits without sharing them with the socially weak. When the government arrests Galt, they tried to persuade and then torture him into taking economic charge of the state, knowing that the men of the minds will follow his suit. When he refuses, he is locked up, and this is when the epitomy of the story occurs and the strikers come to the rescue of John Galt. The final collapse of the state system occurs and the men of the minds are free to come back and resume their duties.
Ayn Rand, in the story of Atlas Shrugged, creates a medley of characters so rash and so extreme that they seem surreal, much like story does in a certain way. Creating an alternate reality, Rand simply takes real world issues and glorifies them to a point of extremity that make the stroy unbelievable, but at the same time very attractive for readers.
The intensity of the characters and what they represent is what Rand uses to keep her readers locked in. Dagny, Rearden, Ellis Wyatt and all the other brilliant minds of the industry appeal to the greedy, ambitious parts of our person that we try to hide behind the James Taggarts and Lillian Reardens inside us, pushing away the urge for greed and reaching out through a deep sense of obligation that has been so viciously drilled into our minds. John Galt, the hero of the story, represents the all optimistic rebel inside us, and that part of our heart that believes that if we stare and a mountain long enough and will it to move, it will eventually move.
Rand’s brilliant way of almost upsetting people into indulging the book is probably one of the reasons why it’s not only a classic, but also one of the most controversial books in historic literature. Rand brilliantly entices her readers with mystery and murder to explore more deeper theories, two of which stand out most prominently. She steers her readers to believe that fascist theories are justified, and pushes them to question themselves and the ethical standing of enjoying the fruits of one’s labor while other people are suffering.
The audiobook of Atlas Shrugged is beautifully narrated and will take listeners on an auditory joyride filled with passion, mystery, desperation and defiance, and listeners will be thrown into the gallows of speeding emotions leaving them breathless yet asking for more. For those literary lovers who love the thought of a book that pushes the boundaries of ethics and crosses the line of social conformity, the audiobook of Atlas Shrugged will be a wonderful listen!