John Royce's Reviews > Reason Reigns

Reason Reigns by Ilyn Ross
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Jul 17, 2009

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Read in July, 2009 — I own a copy

To get this out of the way, I did not find this to be a readable novel for enjoyment. It is the first effort of a new writer, and it was clearly written in earnest with obvious passion and commitment. The writing has an edge, and the outlines of imaginative talent are evident. If sincerity was the key ingredient in readable literature, this would be an outstanding title.

On first glance the typography is distracting: double spacing between paragraphs with text that is san-serif and not indented. Moving beyond the aesthetic elements, the reader encounters a fast-moving stream of one-dimensional characters, names/aliases, relationships, and motives. The author moves these faint, multitudinous characters through the narrative to illustrate various ideological points, which is perhaps appropriate as they are as human and emotionally resonant as plastic chess pieces. All Good Characters are heroic "Mary Sues" and all Bad Characters are uniformly weak and diabolical.

As a novel it does not succeed, but the truth is that "Reason Reigns" is not a novel but a polemic. This is understandable as Ross is a self-considered protégé of Ayn Rand, and "Reason Reigns" follows in the tradition of Rand's own works such as "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugs." Unfortunately Rand is a dubious role model, because even her most influential follower, Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, recently reported an error in Rand's philosophy, ie, that humans do *not* always act rationally in their own self-interest. (Note: Greenspan said this after being called to Congressional hearings to explain his role in the current economic debacle. "Oops" was his basic response.)

Overt proselytizing of an ideology presented as fictitious entertainment is treacherous because it offers idealized fiction as a metaphor for real life. For one example, the character of a doctor, Ari Hugo, is asked to give up the "fruits of his labors" in the form of a desperately-needed cure ... which he and he alone discovered. Dr. Hugo has apparently received no assistance in his creation, meaning he had no teachers, attended no school, apparently deduced the scientific method on his own, learned nothing from others and generally developed his unique cure for humanity entirely outside of all human influence. He is a Benevolent Superman, beholden to none, the Idealized Man. And since the good Doctor invented this cure by himself, he valiantly refuses to make it available to "the poor" in need. This refusal is termed a principled stance. In fact it is mere nihilism.

The author was influenced by "The Fountainhead," a work of Rand's that presents the appealing story of a man living by his own high ideals, away from the suffocation of conformity. And like that work, "Reason Reigns" does mix truth in with the batter, but ends up mistaking self-gratification for independence. Rand's Roark is taken as admirable because he fights the Establishment: what Rand never realizes (or tells her readers) is that in the real, actual world of human beings, oppressive Establishments represent the leveraged forces she claims are victims of the majority. Rand switched the labels. As Greenspan said ... oops.

Foregoing actual reality may be acceptable in a fantasy novel, but it renders meaningless a work of ideology. "Reason Reigns" is a haunting tribute to mistaken rhetoric, but one that leaves the reader with a good impression of this new author. The book feels like a rhetorical assault, and that itself is a testimony to the talent of this young author. This was an ambitious attempt, too ambitious perhaps, but that can also be said to be a saving grace of an author's debut work.
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