I was disappointed and surprised with this novel. I was disappointed since I expected much more from McEwan’s prose and because this novel spent so much time on Beard’s love life and gluttony, which bored me. It surprised me as the science and the problems of a scientist’s career peaking early were done so well by someone with McEwan’s apparent background. This was the 1st of his books I’ve read, but was familiar with his reputation.
The book has 2 threads—anthropomorphic climate change and Beard’s trivial human life (all individuals are trivial in Nature’s face). About three quarters of the book was concerned with Beard’s activities of daily life, the rest about climate change and his attempt to create a new system of clean energy beyond nuclear. The latter is most important, the former is least. Yet McEwan did a much better with his ecoFIction, than with his human relationships fiction. The latter seemed like a B-romantic comedy,
Perhaps the point of the book is that in the face of catastrophic climate change, catastrophic for human civilization, humans remain most concerned with their little lives, comforts, eating, screwing… sleeping, showering… playing political games, messing with lawyers and bureaucrats… As Beard’s hope of re-achieving breakthrough science fails, so does humanities hope of avoiding the climate catastrophe. It will be too late when the problem becomes short term.