This new book is hailed as « savagely funny » which is understandable since it is indeed a savage satire on ecology and the undying subject of renewable energy ( or an eco-satire ), but it is not a funny book and its anti- hero is hardly a great « comic creation » .. Let us not forget how black and sordid Mc Ewan's world usually is : all his books bathe in tremendous uneasiness, malevolence, avoiding a criminal bend by a hair split and always ending in destroyed lives. He is a powerful writer, given to bitter satire of all classes of english society , delighting in describing the ambivalence and the destruction in his characters' lives .
Here Michael Beard, a declining scholar ex- Nobel prize, is a grotesque aging man turned into a slob, so un -able to deal with reality that he has chosen to satisfy only his animal instincts : glutonny and fornication . Well, personal decline is not really funny, rather sad and hopeless , as we watch this poor guy going down slowly and inexorably to his catastrophice end..he cannot help himself . The subject is really human weakness and the humility of giving in to one's weakness.
Michael Beard is nevertheless a likeable guy and the reader quite hopes to see him somewhat redeemed, but no , the Mc Ewan world is a cruel and mean one , even sadistic, and all the hero's enemies will manage to destroy him thoroughly at the end. No one is more desillusioned than this writer, and more determined to show how relentlesly social fury will attack a flawed life. Remember only « Atonement » and « Amsterdam », his greatest novels, which paint destroyed happiness ,lost innocence, or love more dangerous than hatred…this book here is not such a masterpiece, and is strangely painful to read, but it is a provocative and well directed criticism of the unbelievably boring theme of tireless ecologists on all modern media : how to trap cheaply solar energy .. Mercy !
More to the point, the last decade of almost any human being 's life is a difficult period to depict and also a marvelous novelistic opportunity : what has the person really accomplished if anything, what are his chances of a peaceful existence from now on ? So much suffering is involved and so much luck also or just good circumstances that it is almost always a semi tragic issue. Which is what Mc Ewan excells at doing : man is a fallen creature and the world denies him a place of solace.