Michael Beard is in his late fifties; bald, overweight, unprepossessing - a Nobel prize-winning physicist whose best work is behind him. Trading on his reputation, he speaks for enormous fees, lends his name to the letterheads of renowned scientific institutions and half-heartedly heads a government-backed initiative tackling global warming. An inveterate philanderer, Beard finds his fifth marriage floundering. But this time it is different: she is having the affair, and he is still in love with her.
When Beard's professional and personal worlds are entwined in a freak accident, an opportunity presents itself, a chance for Beard to extricate himself from his marital mess, reinvigorate his career and very possibly save the world from environmental disaster.
With a global scope, SOLAR is a comedy dealing directly with the crises of today. A story of one man's ambitions and self-deceptions, it is a startling and stylish new departure in the work of one of the world's great writers.
Ian McEwan is the author of two collections of stories and eleven previous novels, including Enduring Love, Amsterdam, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1998, Atonement and, most recently, On Chesil Beach.