After Hours

Atlas Shrugged, the book all geeks should read

Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged is Edmond Woychowsky's ultimate geek book because he finds the concepts strikingly familiar to incidents in his life.

We asked several Geekend contributors to write about the game, movie, comic, and book an aspiring geek must play/watch/read. This is the final installment in the series.


Like the mythical Atlas, geeks hold the weight of the heavens upon their shoulders. And, if they are taken for granted or mistreated, those very same geeks can shrug off that weight and let the world crash down. This concept is in direct opposition to the two basic tenets that business majors preach: There is no "I" in team, and people are interchangeable. This is the theme of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.

The story follows the actions of Dagny Taggart, one of the heirs of a railroad, as she becomes aware of an economic stagnation that appears to be spreading across the planet. Along the way, she meets Hank Rearden, a steel magnate and inventor, who like Dagny, has realized that their civilization is on the decline. Together they search for an answer, all the time wondering about the meaning and origin of the enigmatic phrase, "Who is John Galt?"

The meaning of the phrase quickly becomes evident as a synonym to "I don't know." The phrase's origin, however, is far less easy to determine. Even harder still is determining the identity of John Galt. John Galt, with a group of like-minded individuals, conceived of a method where the geeks can shrug off the weight of the heavens and go their own way, leaving the world that we know to those that have only the illusion of power.

I find the concept of a world that demands the fruits of geek labor, yet belittles the geeks themselves strikingly familiar. A part of me remembers incidents in my own life where I felt that the world at large was well on its way to the dystopia that Rand describes. In those moments I ask, "Who is John Galt?"

(Note: After we publish all installments of the series, we'll feature some members' geek profiles with their "ultimate" selections.)

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