Books: The Solid-Gold Dollar Sign

ATLAS SHRUGGED (1,168 pp.)—Ayn Rand—Random House ($6.95).

Is it a novel? Is it a nightmare? Is it Superman—in the comic-strip or the Nietzschean version? During the book's opening passages—for 300 or 400 pages, that is—the reader cannot be sure. Then the truth emerges: Author Ayn Rand, a sort of literary Horsewoman of the Apocalypse, is smashing the world with half a million words in order to rebuild it according to her own philosophy. And that philosophy must be read to be disbelieved.

The time is the near future; the place, the U.S.; the heroine, beautiful...