Anyhow, I loved the book. The main character is one Michael Beard, Nobel Prize winner in physics and now, 20 years and 5 marriages later, an accidental climate scientist. The delicious fun of the book is that Beard is so comically appalling. His womanizing, his over-eating, his cynicism...everything makes him abominable, but somehow not despicable. The book is about his misadventures in love, green technology, crime and punishment, overeating, overdrinking. This is the sort of closely observed dark comedy I just love.
Stop reading now if you haven't read the book and plan to, because I've got to say something about the last two pages.
Not so satisfying. It's not just that the plot goes awry, but the novel winds up saying the wrong thing. Unless you are determined to hear no message at all, the book seems to say that personal self-control is key to getting global warming under control. McEwan won't let his gluttonous, thoughtless, amoral "hero" pull off a technological feat that could save the world. Why not? Bad people don't do good things? But they do!
Maybe we're supposed to take this a little more metaphorically. OK, green technology geniuses can be slobs and womanizers. What he's trying to say is that we have to get our appetites under control, if we're going to solve the problem of global warming. Is Michael Beard us? I'm afraid that just doesn't work. He's much too abominable for that. And the appetites theory of our environmental crisis doesn't seem very insightful anyway. We're not really, as individuals, "too" greedy. There are just too many of us, so our collective ecological footprint is too big. It's not because of greed that our cars produce greenhouse gases--they just do, because of the sort of cars and fuel we use.
Solar needed another ending--more "organic," less punitive, less message-y. I want to know what really happened in the end (come on, what about Darlene and Melissa?) not what had to happen to teach us all about the hazards of over-consumption. Other that--a really enjoyable book, and interesting too.