Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Apparently, Kurt Vonnegut regarded this work as a failure. It's also listed in the top one hundred science fiction books one ought to have read.
Well, I have read it now and whilst I don't perhaps consider it a a failure, it is neither science fiction nor a classic novel. In fact, I got to the end wondering when it would start. So it goes.
It is merely a narration around an experience of the Dresden bombing, with an American character who would be better placed chatting with Willy Lomax or sitting under a tree with Vladimir and Estragon, or even, perhaps, sitting quietly listening to the Joad family as they head towards an non-existent Californian orange utopia. The narrative is broken, the narrative makes you wonder if Audrey Niffenegger read and re-read it before thinking of a wife for this particular time traveller, the narrative oscillates between a portrayal of the absurd that comes nowhere close to the skills of Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco and a mundane relating of a man who has lived through a war that lost its purpose in the mind of an individual before it even started.
Characters are sketches in this book, each as inconsequential and vapid as Montana Wildback, as Edgar Derby, as Roland Weary, as Kilgore Trout, as Wild Bob. The time in the prisoner of war camp makes me think of all those darkly humorous Hollywood film of the fifties and sixties where stereotypes abound of the stiff upper lip Englishman, the overbearing American, the gullible German and the wintry Russian. The novel is a sketch of something bigger, pretends to grab the coattails of iconic expressions of novel sub-genres.
Billy Pilgrim is a man who gives into the lie he is told to avoid. He gives into the easy determinism of letting fate take over his life; of letting his mind and body be tossed like a leaf in Vonnegut's winds of past, present, and future. As a reader we are swept up in his personal tornado... we just never make it to Oz, rather we are stuck on Tralfamadore, with no free will, a plaything of fatalism.
Two sentences did stick with me: The first "It is, in the imagination of combat's fans, the divinely listless loveplay, that follows the orgasm of victory. It is called ‘mopping up’." The second, "it was very exciting for her, taking his dignity away in the name of love." Both perfectly explain the perspective between winner and loser; the first showcases our need to tidy up, to categorize, to classify; the second to engage in seemingly altruistic actions which are really us satiating our own need to sense moral achievement. In the end, Billy Pilgrim knows how extraordinarily mundane his life is, how moments are precious and that choosing to stay in those moments is all that really matters. For him, fulfilment is understanding that the pinnacle of his existence can be as simple as a "sundrenched snooze in the back of the wagon."
The novel is not a failure, but it languishes in its own self-pity, its own determinism, its own fatalism. It is the very antipathy of Orwell's 1984, taking the art of pacifism and showing how one can live a life of inactivism. Worth a read if you are a hard-nosed fan, but to be listed in the top 100 Science Fiction books of all time? Whoever made that list up needs a hard rethink.
This Slaughterhouse Five book review was written by travelswithacanadian
Have you read Slaughterhouse Five?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Slaughterhouse Five reader reviews
7/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Death in St James's Park
Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart lad...
Mystery in the Minster
In 1358 the fledging college of Michaelhouse in Cambridge is in need of extra funds. A legacy from the Archbishop of York of a parish close to that city promises a welcome ...
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have me...
Death of a Scholar
In the summer of 1358 the physician Matthew Bartholomew returns to Cambridge to learn that his beloved sister is in mourning after the unexpected death of her husband, Oswa...
Andersonville by Edward M Erdelac
Edward M Erdelac
Georgia, 1864. Camp Sumter, aka Andersonville, has earned a reputation as an open sewer of sadistic cruelty and terror where death may come at any minute. But as the Union ...
A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening
Mario de Carvalho
In the 3rd century AD, Lucerius Valerius Quincius, perfect of Tarcisis, an imaginary Roman City, begins his memoirs. His city is threatened from without and within. North A...
The King of Scotland is dead. The nobles fight over the succession, unaware that King Edward of England has plans of his own. For years, Edward has nurtured a fierce vision...
The Chelsea Strangler
In the sapping summer heat of 1665 there is little celebration in London of the naval victory at the Battle of Lowestoft. The King, his retinue and anyone with sufficient m...
The Lost Abbot
In the summer of 1358 Matthew Bartholomew finds himself one of a party of Bishop's Commissioners, sent north to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the Abbot of...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: