Here’s another Atlas Shrugged fanfic from yours truly! One of the fascinating things about these characters – now that I’ve got a little distance from the novel – is that Rand leaves them as nearly blank slates. Even when some of the characters do having living family, like Hank Rearden, their family seems to have no real relationship with the character, evidenced by Hank’s mother’s name, in the novel, is literally “Hank’s mother.” She has no proper name. And while both Francisco and Dagny are obsessed with long dead ancestors, we learn almost nothing about their immediate family and nothing at all about their fathers. Ayn Rand has daddy issues that burn so brightly that people are Jupiter are blinded by them.
Dagny: Guys, we’ve got to save John Galt! I know we’re never supposed to do something for nothing, and, let’s be honest, John is there because of his own stupidity! He could have stayed in capitalist utopia. He could have left after the speech. He could have run when I arrived at his apartment. But, no! He stayed, and allowed himself to get captured, and despite this being against our CAPITALIST values (in which we never give any help to anyone without charging them) let’s ignore that and save him!
Hank Rearden: Yes!
Francisco d’Anaconia: Yes!
Ragnar Danneskjold: Argh! Yes! If I get to jump through a window!
Commie Dr. Statler: I need to control the sonic or cosmic ray cannon (no one knows which, it’s like the writer didn’t know the difference between sound and cosmic rays)! This despite the fact that I was horrified to learn of it’s existence, I’ve suddenly decided that I want to be a warlord! I’ve driven for days to get to it! Even though the country is supposedly in ruins with gangs and violence everywhere, I can drive totally unmolested for two thousand miles!
Commie Cuffy Meigs: I got here, first!
Commie Dr. Statler: You fool, don’t touch that lever! You’ll destroy us and everything within a hundred miles! You’ll destroy a BRIDGE!
Evil Commie Government Officials: For some reason, we stood around listening to that four-and-a-half hour long speech from John Galt without moving or saying anything!
Dagny Taggart: Give up, he’s won!
Evil President: No! Look for John Galt, instead, so we can give him a job! That’s what true evil would do!
Eddie Villers: Ms. Taggart, I know who John Galt is. I’ve been telling him every little personal detail about your life, and all of our confidential business secrets, to him for years.
My finishing purge of Atlas Shrugged is to discuss the flaws in her political and social reasoning, as opposed to merely talking about why the book is a disaster artistically. (And it is a disaster artistically, as close to objectively awful as a book gets.)
Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged and elsewhere, isn’t just proposing a form of laissez-faire capitalism. She is proposing a system of ethics in which selfishness and greed are the dominant – maybe even sole – principles. To many people, this is absolutely terrifying, and Atlas Shrugged does a very good job of exposing the reason that’s terrifying, even though Rand doesn’t seem to notice it.
Dagny Taggart: Gosh, I just noticed that John Galt literally works for me! For years, people have been saying “Who is John Galt?”, even in this very building, without even noticing that John Galt literally works here! How dumb have I been? I mean, should I feel really embarrassed that John Galt literally works in the same building as me, and I’ve been looking for him for two years? Nah. I’m a CAPITALIST!
Jim Taggart: You have to listen to the Evil Commie Government Officials give a speech.
Dagny: Ugh, I guess so.
Hank Rearden: My mill is dead because of commies, and my money is seized by the gub’mint! They tried to trick me into helping people not starve to death, but I’m too smart for that!
Hank’s Mom: You haven’t visited us in months! Come over.
Lillian: Ha! I’m here!
Hank: Curses! I divorced you because I’m INNOCENT!
Lillian: Dude, you slept with another woman for two years and then bribed judges to get the divorce so I couldn’t get anything. That’s the total opposite of innocent.
Hank: That’s CAPITALIST JUSTICE!
I’m reading about Ayn Rand because I intend to write a parody of Atlas Shrugged, which takes the form of a novel that occurs immediately after the end of Rand’s novel (albeit changed enough to remove the threat of copyright infringement, and strengthen a fair use defense in case something weird happens). The purpose of the parody is to create a rejoinder to the political, philosophical, and economic principles that Ayn Rand lays out in the novel.
It is simply uncontroversial that Ayn Rand’s followers, particularly those at the Ayn Rand Institute, use the novel Atlas Shrugged to spread Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. In The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism A to Z, Atlas Shrugged is quote dozens if not hundreds of times to illustrate the philosophy of Objectivism. The Ayn Rand Institute has given hundreds of thousands of copies of Atlas Shrugged to schools with the express purpose of introducing new generations of readers to Objectivism. John Galt’s long speech in Atlas Shrugged is considered to be the first complete expression of Objectivist principles. It is also my personal experience that followers of Ayn Rand quote Atlas Shrugged the same way Christians quote the Bible – at nearly every turn for nearly any occasion.
My agonies are done. I have finished reading Atlas Shrugged. I will have to go back to it, time and again in the coming months for research, but the worst is over. I no longer have to engage in the novel as a novel, but merely as a resource to drive my parody.
In this review, I’m going to talk about Atlas Shrugged as art. It is a book that is both philosophical and political, but I’m going to leave that for another review. This one is just about Ayn Rand’s art.
I can say with absolute certainty and clarity that this is the worst novel I’ve ever finished reading in terms of artistry. Atlas Shrugged is not I novel I dislike, it is a novel that is as close to objectively bad as can be written. I am going to write a numbered list – who on the Internet doesn’t like numbered lists? – that outline just some of the absurdities, bad research, and contradictions of Atlas Shrugged. Some will be general, others quite specific. Their sheer number is so breath-taking, so overwhelming as to remove all doubt about the quality of this novel: it is garbage. No, no, it is objectively and uncategorically garbage.
I’ve just got done with John Galt’s long speech in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It’s part philosophy lecture and part insult-comic rant. It is bad at both. (Later on, in my general critique of Atlas Shrugged, I’ll cover the most serious of her flaws in regards to art, politics and economics. It would take a book-length critique to get them all, but there are several that are especially glaring, even to me.)
There are three primary philosophical sins in John Galt’s 36,000 word speech: the first is badly constructed syllogisms, the second is reliance on arguments from authority, the third is straw man arguments. I’m going to give an example of each, but just one, because the speech sixty-plus pages long and it would take forever to cover everything.