One of DeLillo's first novels, Ratner's Star
follows Billy, the genius adolescent, who is recruited to live in obscurity, underground, as he tries to help a panel of estranged, demented, and yet lovable scientists communicate with beings from outer space. It is a mix of quirky humor, science, mathematical theories, as well as the complex emotional distance and sadness people feel. Ratner's Star
demonstrates both the thematic and prosaic muscularity that typifies DeLillo's later and more recent works, like The Names
(which is also available in Vintage Contemporaries).