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Ratner's Star

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  1,795 ratings  ·  155 reviews
"When Billy Twillig, a genius adolescent, wins the first Nobel Prize ever to be given in mathematics, he is recruited to live and work in the company of thirty Nobel laureates in obscurity underground. There, away from the rest of the world, this panel of estranged, demented and lovable scientists work together on a secret scientific project: deciphering a mysterious ...more
Audiobook, 448 pages
Published December 14th 2017 by Picador (first published 1976)
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Average rating 3.49  · 
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 ·  1,795 ratings  ·  155 reviews


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BlackOxford
Avoiding Cosmic Fake News

Every community of human beings has its own way of thinking about things, its rules for connecting words and experiences. These rules constitute the community’s epistemology. Epistemology determines who to believe, what is valid and true, and ‘what counts’ in the language of the community - astronomy and simulation are ‘in’ among scientists, for example, and astrology and augury are out. To some degree a community’s epistemology depends on its technology - including its
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Michael Finocchiaro
What a bunch of meaningless gibberish. And all this so Billy can eat worms (literally not figuratively) in the end? I guess DeLillo was attempting to pull a Pynchon here but seems to fail miserably. I could wade through 100s of pages of Proustian interior dialog and description, 100s of pages of how-to-run-a-dysfunctional-tennis-academy-or-drug-rehab-center in Wallace or 100s of pages of Pynchonian voyages across anarchic, dystopian spaces in Germany or Mexico but this drivel about math and ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nathan Redman
DICHOTOMY & SEQUENCE:

Hard Books

"[Don DeLillo's] books are hard: all of them expressions of someone who has ideas (I don't mean opinions), who reads things other than novels and newspapers (though he clearly reads those too, and to advantage), and who experiments with literary convention."

Frank Lentricchia

) -: 0/0 :k. : k' ""( -( .

"...epic, piquant disquisitions on the philosophy of logic, the logic of games, the gamesmanship of fiction and prehistory, these early efforts preparing the way
...more
Drew
Seems like Delillo took a bunch of postmodern conceits (funny names like Calliope Shrub and Elux Troxl; precocious kid; unrealistic, posturing dialogue; near-opaque symbols; metafiction) and threw them together in a broken blender. Everything works well for the first half, the elements blending together and whirling faster and faster like the book's aborigine. Then something goes horribly wrong; the top pops off, causing the blender to spew postmodernism all over the walls. And as we all know, ...more
Greg
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
According to Wikipedia this is Don DeLillo's favorite of his novels. It's not mine. I think that I missed something in the book, like DeLillo was doing something that I didn't quite catch, or I caught but I wasn't that impressed by it. I'm not sure what I'm saying.

This is DeLillo's first 'big' novel. I haven't read Underworld yet, but from the books of his I've read I think I like him best when his books are compact. I think it's possible (this could change as I read the rest of his works) that
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Aaron
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My reactions to this novel can be put rather succinctly. If David Foster Wallace is indeed a fan of Don Delillo, this is the novel he has stolen from most. If Don Delillo is indeed a fan of Thomas Pynchon, this is the novel that Pynchon most directly inspired. But regardless of its influences or the work it later inspired, because those things are speculatory, it is certainly true that this novel, Delillo's fourth, is his first great novel.

The novel centers around child math prodigy Billy
...more
sologdin
My favorite Delillo so far, by a wide margin, inclusive of Underworld.

First Nobel in mathematics goes to teenage protagonist, whose work was “understood by only three or four people” (4), which work kid has designated as “zorgs” (20): “it’s pretty impossible to understand unless you know the language. A zorg is a kind of number. You can’t use zorgs for anything except in mathematics. Zorgs are useless. In other words they don’t apply” (id.). These statements are of course manifestly dishonest,
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Regan
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ratner’s Star is a profound(ly funny) work of metaphysical fiction. It is metaphysical in both the Ancient (Pythagorean/Parmenidean)sense, and the Modern (Dialectic of Enlightenment) sense.

It is an enormously ambitious novel that presents and resides in the age-old tension between reason and faith, truth and superstition, science and art, pure math and formal logic, mind and body, being and becoming, everything and nothing. Abstractly speaking--as the precocious young mathematician that serves
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L.S. Popovich
Uncle John's Bathroom Reader. Delillo edition.
Sentimental Surrealist
This comes off to me as someone self-consciously trying to write a postmodern novel and not quite succeeding. There are big swaths of Gaddis, Pynchon, and Heller and little hints of Gass and Barth throughout this novel, but those authors did a far better job of combining the intellectual concerns Ratner's Star takes on with interesting stories. When Gravity's Rainbow (still a terrific novel, mind) has more narrative coherence than what you're doing, you're sort of in trouble.

Ratner's Star is a
...more
Lara Bell
Mar 24, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Totally tedious. Made me regret that I can't stop reading a book once I start it. Put me to sleep after 3 pages every night. It's that kind of pretentious, look how smart I am, off-kilter writing that a college math freshman would probably spooge over. The beginning is fun and sucked me in enough that I waded through to the end for the somewhat predictable payoff.
I guess if you like math give it a try...
tim
Jul 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is plentiful evidence of DeLillo's brilliance strewn throughout these pages, but for the most part the going is laboriously slow. In the imaginative conclusion, math and science are revealed to be just as much a creation of the human mind as mysticism and language, where no single one of these approaches is any more able than another to objectively answer the question: "What is the universe as it exists beyond the human brain?"
Neil
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
In my defence, I was young, my degree in mathematics was still relatively new and shiny and I was just at that point in my life when I was discovering the joys of "literary fiction". This story of a young mathematician hired to attempt to decode a message received from the vicinity of Ratner’s Star ticked a lot of boxes for me almost thirty years ago.

And I do owe this book a huge debt of gratitude. It was, I believe, my first DeLillo and I went on to read just about everything else he has
...more
  LunaBel
I was not able to appreciate this one. It felt as if DeLillo was struggling between describing a teenager discovering sexuality and a genius kid who does nothing other than wandering the Center. Even though DeLillo was praised for his ability to investigate maths and physics, etc, I wasn't able to make sense of much of what was described.
David
Nov 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Man, woman or child:

Do not be alarmed. Ratner’s Star is complete bullshit. Your assessment within the first few pages will prove to be correct. This is a powerful study on the the excesses, the triumphs and failures of the human mind. Bruce Allen from the Chicago Tribune sums it up best. Ratner’s Star is a prodigious satire on those pioneers who journey beyond the frontiers of knowledge and end up more ignorant than they were when they set forth.

Billy, our Nobel Prize winning mathematical
...more
Holly
Jun 27, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Earth has received an apparent message from a planet circulating Ratner's Star, and a brilliant mathematical boy is called in to decipher the message. Commentary on science and astronomy and a study on brilliant minds and how they relate (?)

Despite the interesting premise, this book was torture to read. The ideas expressed are as vast and disconnected as the characters created to portray them. The characters were not integrated into the plot - not only did you (slowly and painstakingly) read
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Brent Legault
Reading this has been like panning for gold in a mud-riven creek bed. There were a few flakes of value but not even enough of them to buy a new mule. And my brain now feels like it could use a thorough hosing or beer bath.
Christopher
Hard to talk about this one. For now, I’ll just quote Tree Man II: “All in fi nite sets are in fi nite but some are more in fi nite than others.”

3.4 ratners

Daniel Chaikin
Delillo's fourth novel is mystery for those who have read it closely. I just borrowed an audio e-copy out of curiosity, because it was available*. And I probably only kept listening because I really liked the reader, Jacques Roy, who is challenged here to come up a zillion different male and female voices. It was always curious but in very odd ways, and I found my attention sometimes engaged, but often less than perfectly attentive. Maybe it was more of an audio skim.

This is basically a
...more
Mo Ringey-gareau
For me, this novel is the full experience; challenging, hilarious, intellectually puzzling, thought-provoking, suspenseful and compelling. Though the more-pointed parts of the mathematical jokes are over my mathless head, the punchline is impossible to miss.

Having harbored a girly crush on Don Delillo's mind since my first reading of "Underworld", with the reading of this book I would say I am beyond smitten. The intellectual hilarity is, as noted in many a review, somewhat Pynchon-esque (I am
...more
Patrick
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really odd, somewhat incoherent and ultimately quite wonderful novel. I’d only previously read ‘White Noise’, ‘Underworld’ and some of the author’s later books and stories, so I was surprised to find a totally different style at work in ‘Ratner’s Star’, one more comparable to Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick. To begin with it very much has the feel of a quirky mid-70s comic sci fi novel, being concerned in a fairly druggy way with conspiracy theories, secret ...more
Kelly ...
This is another try at science fiction for me. I keep hoping to find more books in the genre that I will love, but so far I can count on one hand the number of them that I have loved. This one is not among them.

DeLillo has many ideas, and it is obvious that he is intelligent and well-informed. In this novel, he experiments with mathematics, science and logic. He obviously did his research, and his discussion of the world of science is at times quite beautiful. It is difficult and dense and yet
...more
B. Rule
Apr 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
DeLillo is an unbelievably skillful writer. Just on a sentence by sentence level, the man's ability to put words together is a marvel. Which is really the only saving grace of this early work. The whole book is written in a self-assured post-modern prose familiar to any reader of DeLillo (and to any reader of Pynchon, DFW, etc.) There are intermittent flashes of brilliant and hilarious dialogue peppered throughout. The book is full of manic ranting and cosmic mumbo-jumbo on science and the ...more
Ashton
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who overanalyze literature so they can tell me what it means.
first half: a clever (though definitely off-kilter) satire of the scientific community peppered with allusions to philosophy. Also, it's pretty funny.

second half: digresses into an incomprehensible vortex of weirdness, leaving all possible insights or coherence buried under piles of bat guano ... literally.

The entire second part seems oddly extraneous, or maybe I'm just not intelligent enough to grasp it.
Nick
Apr 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More thoughts to come, but this was rather confounding for me. My reactions varied widely; for a good stretch I'd be delighting in the reverie of abstract theory after theory, bordering on slapstick. An amusing inundation on the reader. Other stretches this same stimuli overload became turgid causing my eyes to glaze over. I can't say this is my favorite Delillo book, but it certainly adds another dimension to his oeuvre that I had yet to experience.
Genia Lukin
Aug 11, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a load of pretentious, incoherent nonsense this was. The author is undoubtedly tremendously intelligent, or at least educated, and he knows it. And he will make absolute sure that you will, too. But aside from that it would be nice if he could write a paragraph that holds together, which, I grant you, is not a fashionable thing to do in the period we're talking of.
Rustam
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with some patience
One of the first Delillo novels, where I actually considered not finishing at two or three points. Very slap-sticky if you can geek out on the math/science commentary. It read kind of like a Kubrick movie.
Sam Tornio
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Through the mohole.
Daved
Dec 13, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Math + fiction, how can you go wrong? This book starts out well as the main character is enlisted to decode an enigmatic radio transmission received from space. This takes place in a futuristic compound centered around Space Brain--a super computer that is mapping the universe. The protagonist, an insanely gifted child mathematician, encounters an odd assortment of scientists and academics and there are some interesting thoughts around the relation of math, science, and culture. From here, there ...more
Alex
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure if I had it in me to finish this book. Apparently I did.
It's a never-ending banquet of absurd obsessions and perversions. I am totally dumbfounded by it. But somehow I feel that I have been transformed by the experience of it, perhaps on some microbial level.
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Reading 1001: Ratner's Star by DeLillo 1 7 May 08, 2019 03:12PM  
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coincidence 1 18 Aug 12, 2009 07:53AM  

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Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American
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“Shit is universal no matter which language.” 21 likes
“As always when he worked with this much concentration he began to feel a sense of introverting pressure. There was no way out once he was in, no genuine rest, no one to talk to who was capable of understanding the complexity (simplicity) of the problem or the approaches to a tentative solution. There came a time in every prolonged effort when he had a moment of near panic, or "terror in a lonely place," the original semantic content of the word. The lonely place was his own mind. As a mathematician he was free from subjection to reality, free to impose his ideas and designs on his own test environment. The only valid standard for his work, its critical point (zero or infinity), was the beauty it possessed, the deft strength of his mathematical reasoning. THe work's ultimate value was simply what it revealed about the nature of his intellect. What was at stake, in effect, was his own principle of intelligence or individual consciousness; his identity, in short. This was the infalling trap, the source of art's private involvement with obsession and despair, neither more nor less than the artist's self-containment, a mental state that led to storms of overwork and extended stretches of depression, that brought on indifference to life and at times the need to regurgitate it, to seek the level of expelled matter. Of course, the sense at the end of a serious effort, if the end is reached successfully, is one of lyrical exhilaration. There is air to breathe and a place to stand. The work gradually reveals its attachment to the charged particles of other minds, men now historical, the rediscovered dead; to the main structure of mathematical thought; perhaps even to reality itself, the so-called sum of things. It is possible to stand in time's pinewood dust and admire one's own veronicas and pavanes.” 8 likes
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