The story starts off following Eddy Willers as he approaches Taggart Transcontinental to tell James Taggart that the Rio Norte Line is pretty much falling apart. James Taggart seems to be stuck on doing nothing because he still hasn't gotten in a shipment of steel for the tracks from his good friend.
Next, we follow Dagny Taggart as she heads to Taggart Transcontinental HQ as well, seeing how badly the railroad company is doing and deciding to implement change: first by canceling the order of steel to instead order Rearden Metal, and then to work on the Rio Norte Line. J Taggart is for the most part unreasonable while D Taggart is the epitome of reason.
The first chapter is by no means attention grabbing. To be frank, a lot of the words that I've been seeing feel like white noise - you could probably half this novel's length and get more impact from truncating it. While I tend to like descriptive novels, this novel seems hellbent on adding a lot of things that seem like symbolism and needlessly elaborating on what Rand is already saying. I'm willing to bet at least 75% of these are cases of faux symbolism written just to seem profound.
I'm not here for an Aesop's tale, and that seems to be what I'm getting right off the bat. Logic and reason = good; empathy and basic human emotions = bad. While I see some point in this, fervently attacking J for having loyalty and, you know, pesky emotions, is Kind Of. It is starting out a bit absurd, as right now the story seems to say 'the less you function as a human being the more valuable and therefore better you are'.
This chapter is 100% about Henry "Hank" Rearden, who, after months and months of tireless work, has gotten his first order of Rearden Metal and has begun pouring it in preparation. While he is overjoyed by this, his family is cool and indifferent to his success, blaming him for not caring about them. His mother and brother are by far the worst offenders, with his wife and friend occasionally (not always, mind) stepping in to defend him.
I had been told I should at least get to reading about Rearden but. I mean it's like "here's another human robot who is contemptuous of these meager humans and their pesky need for contact and emotions, BAH" and I'm just not feeling it.
I liked Lillian though. His wife? Was pretty cool, like she just kind of talked to in a way he could relate and defended him from the worst diatribes. But like. Rearden really is the most arrogant asshole like. He overanalyzes every single move his family makes as begging at his feet "throwing themselves at his feet" I believe is the term used (twice) for money and time from him and he just condescends to helping these poor, sad, over emotional human beings, waahh. Like is Rearden supposed to be a good human being for blowing off family? Is he supposed to be a good human being for feeling like he's doing his wife a HUGE favor by agreeing to show up at their anniversary? I don't get it. I really don't.
The one thing I liked was the end: “A chain," [Lillian] said. "Appropriate, isn't it? It's the chain by which he holds us all in bondage.”